John Voorhees

1247 posts on MacStories since November 2015

John, who is an editor for MacStories and the Club MacStories newsletters, joined MacStories in 2015. With Federico, he co-hosts AppStories, a weekly podcast exploring the world of apps, and Dialog, a seasonal podcast about the impact of technology on creativity, society, and culture. John also handles sponsorship sales for MacStories and its podcasts.

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AppStories, Episode 138 – Rethinking Apple’s TV App in Light of TV+

On this week’s episode of AppStories, we share our thoughts on Apple’s new TV+ video streaming TV app, including what works, what doesn’t, and ways we think it could be improved.

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Apple Reveals Major Update to Its Privacy Webpage

Privacy and everything it entails is not easy to explain. Under the hood, it’s driven by complex mathematics and code. However, in practice, app privacy starts with how apps are designed. Some are designed to collect information about you, and others aren’t. With Apple’s update to its privacy page today, the company has created a site that explains how privacy drives the design of its apps in clear, concise language. However, for anyone who wants to understand the nitty-gritty details, Apple has also published white papers and linked to other materials that provide a closer look at the issues that the main page addresses.

Apple’s Privacy webpage starts with a declaration of the company’s position on privacy:

Privacy is a fundamental human right. At Apple, it’s also one of our core values. Your devices are important to so many parts of your life. What you share from those experiences, and who you share it with, should be up to you. We design Apple products to protect your privacy and give you control over your information. It’s not always easy. But that’s the kind of innovation we believe in.

What follows is an app-by-app explanation of how each is designed to give users control over what they share and limit what Apple collects. Safari, Maps, Photos, Messages, Siri, News, Wallet, Health, Sign On with Apple, and the App Store are all covered with playful animations and a short explanation of what they do to protect your privacy.

Additional information about each app, their underlying technologies, plus iCloud, CarPlay, Home, education and children’s privacy, and other features follow under the Features tab. Included among the more detailed materials are white papers that go even deeper on Safari, Location Services, differential privacy, iOS security, and Face ID security. There is also a tech brief on Photos and links to additional materials about Ask Siri, Siri Suggestions, Apple Pay, ResearchKit and CareKit, Apple News, Apple Music, the Apple TV app, Apple Arcade, iCloud, Screen Time, Family Sharing, security in education, Apple’s student privacy pledge, and your data and privacy page. That’s a lot of information, but it’s presented in a thoughtful, compelling way that lets you go deeper if you want without being confusing or difficult to navigate.

The final new tab is called Control. Some of these tips and guides were available before, but the page has been updated with new practical suggestions on how you can make your Apple devices more secure. The page covers passcodes, Touch ID and Face ID, two-factor authentication, Find My, the alerts that explain the information third-party apps request, using your data and privacy page, advertising, analytics, and more. It’s an excellent place for users looking for ways to take command of the security of their devices.

I know that a lot of MacStories readers care strongly about their privacy and the security of their devices, and many are aware of at least some of what’s covered on Apple’s privacy page. However, it’s still worth a visit because privacy and security are part of so much of what Apple does now, that I expect there are at least a few tidbits on this new page that will be new to everyone. It’s also a great page to share with family members and friends who may not be as aware of the privacy issues related to their devices.


AppStories, Episode 137 – Our Third Annual Apple Watch Check-In

On this week’s episode of AppStories, in what has become an annual tradition, we talk about how how we’ve set up our Apple Watches, including the complications we use, the third-party apps on which we rely, and what’s in our Watch docks.

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Apple Releases Trailer for The Banker Arriving in Theaters December 6th and Streaming on Apple TV+ in January 2020

Apple has released a trailer for its upcoming movie, The Banker, on its Apple TV YouTube channel. The company describes the film as follows:

Based on a true story, “The Banker” centers on revolutionary businessmen Bernard Garrett (Anthony Mackie) and Joe Morris (Samuel L. Jackson), who devise an audacious and risky plan to take on the racially oppressive establishment of the 1960s by helping other African Americans pursue the American dream. Along with Garrett’s wife Eunice (Nia Long), they train a working class white man, Matt Steiner (Nicholas Hoult), to pose as the rich and privileged face of their burgeoning real estate and banking empire – while Garrett and Morris pose as a janitor and a chauffeur. Their success ultimately draws the attention of the federal government, which threatens everything the four have built.

The film, which is rated PG-13, will be released in theaters December 6th and stream Apple TV+ in January 2020 following a similar pattern to The Elephant Queen and Hala which are also Apple Original movies. It’s an interesting approach and one that is likely designed to ensure the films are eligible for awards like the Oscars, while simultaneously creating marketing opportunities and viewer awareness in advance of their debut on TV+.


Adobe Releases Photoshop for iPad and Aero, an iOS AR Creation Tool, Plus Offers a Peek at 2020’s Illustrator for iPad

Source: Adobe

Source: Adobe

Adobe MAX begins today in Los Angeles and runs through November 6th. As in past years, the three-day conference is an opportunity for Adobe to announce new products and updates to existing ones.

Last year, Adobe previewed Photoshop for iPad and Aero, an iOS AR creation tool. Today, those apps are finally out of beta and are available to everyone in the App Store. In fact, both Photoshop and Aero showed up on the App Store the evening before the start of MAX, providing me with a little hands-on time with them in advance of their official release.

Adobe has also previewed an iPad version of Illustrator, another of its core Creative Suite apps, which the company says will be available sometime in 2020.

Adobe’s announcements are packed with updates to a wide range of its products, but there’s a clear focus this year on mobile apps. In addition to Photoshop, Aero, and Illustrator, the company also announced updates to Lightroom for iOS and iPadOS and its Rush video creation app.

However, the centerpiece of Adobe’s mobile announcements is Photoshop, the company’s iconic professional design app relied upon by creative professionals worldwide. Ever since word of Photoshop for iPad was leaked to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman in July 2018, the idea of ‘full’ or ‘real’ Photoshop on the iPad has captured imaginations. That initial leak, combined with Adobe’s early marketing efforts, led to outsized expectations for the first version of the app.

Instead of the full-featured, desktop-replacement app that some people were expecting, Adobe says that it has built a foundation with its new cloud-based PSD files and Photoshop’s desktop engine, upon which it will evolve with the guidance of users. Based on what I’ve heard from Adobe and seen from my limited use of the app, I believe the company truly is committed to building a more fully-featured version of Photoshop for the iPad; however, it doesn’t appear that users will be able to abandon their desktops anytime soon.

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Apple Updates the HomePod with Multi-Voice Support and Ambient Sounds, Plus iPhone Handoff, Shortcuts, and HomeKit Functionality

On Monday, Apple released audioOS 13.2 for the HomePod and before the end of the day US-time pulled it when users started reporting that it was bricking their HomePods. In addition to bricking some HomePods, other users, myself included, had trouble setting up multi-voice support. I also heard from others who had trouble getting the update to install in the first instance. Today, shortly after Apple’s earnings call concluded, the company released audioOS 13.2.1, which includes the same features and presumably fixes the issues users experienced.

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Apple Q4 2019 Results - $64 Billion Revenue

Apple has just published its financial results for Q4 2019. The company posted revenue of $64 billion. Apple CEO Tim Cook said:

“We concluded a groundbreaking fiscal 2019 with our highest Q4 revenue ever, fueled by accelerating growth from Services, Wearables and iPad,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “With customers and reviewers raving about the new generation of iPhones, today’s debut of new, noise-cancelling AirPods Pro, the hotly-anticipated arrival of Apple TV+ just two days away, and our best lineup of products and services ever, we’re very optimistic about what the holiday quarter has in store.”

Estimates and Expectations for Q4 2019 and the Year-Ago Quarter (Q4 2018)

Apple’s revenue guidance for Q4 2019 fell between $61 billion and $64 billion, with gross margin estimated to be between 37.5% and 38.5%.

Going into today’s earnings call, Marketwatch says:

Analysts surveyed by FactSet see the company posting revenue of $63 billion, nearly flat from $62.9 billion a year ago. The report will cap off a fiscal year in which Apple’s earnings and revenue are both expected to decline from a year earlier, which has happened at Apple only once since 2001.

In the year-ago quarter (Q4 2018), Apple earned $62.9 billion in revenue. During that quarter Apple sold 46.9 million iPhones, 9.7 million iPads, and 5.3 million Macs. As announced on Apple’s Q4 2018 earnings call, however, the company no longer reports unit sales for any of its products.

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1Blocker for Mac Introduces New Features and a Subscription-Based Business Model

I wish I didn’t feel like I needed an ad blocker, but so much of the Internet is junked up with intrusive, distracting advertising, that it’s virtually impossible to use some websites. I don’t have an issue with most advertising, but there’s a line that is crossed too often and ruins the reading experience of many sites. Where that line is varies subjectively by person, but that’s precisely why having a flexible ad blocker like 1Blocker is crucial.

The other reason to use 1Blocker is that content blockers like it manage more than just ads. Comments, share buttons, and social media badges are only a few of the many annoyances found on sites these days. Add to those, things like trackers and bitcoin mining code, and even if you don’t block a single ad, there is still plenty to block.

1Blocker has been one of my favorite utilities since it was introduced with iOS 9 and content blockers were new to iOS. The iOS version was followed by a Mac version the next year. 2018 saw the release of 1Blocker X on iOS, which split blocking rules into multiple categories to get around rule limits imposed by the OS. With the latest update to 1Blocker’s Mac app, that same functionality has been brought to the Mac along with a redesign of the app’s UI and a new subscription-based business model.

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Sebastiaan de With Explains Why the iPhone 11 Camera Is Such a Big Leap Forward

Sebastiaan de With, part of the team behind the camera app Halide has published part 1 of a multi-part breakdown of the iPhone 11 camera. It’s a fantastic analysis of what makes the new camera different from past versions and goes into great depth while remaining accessible, even if you have only a passing familiarity with photography.

To put this year’s camera into perspective, de With recaps what Apple did with last year’s iPhone cameras explaining how Smart HDR works and its shortcomings. The iPhone 11 features Smart HDR too, but as de With explains, Apple has significantly improved how it handles the dynamic range of an image.

Another aspect of the improvement is in the camera sensor hardware. Despite its diminutive size, the iPhone 11’s image sensor can resolve more detail than any iPhone camera before it.

However, many of the iPhone 11’s camera improvements come down to better software. The new camera post-processes each component of an image differently, applying different noise reduction to the sky, a face, hair, and clothing, for example. Apple calls the feature Photo Segmentation, and it’s aided by machine learning.

One of my favorite features of the new camera is Night Mode. As de With notes:

In the iPhone 11 Night Mode, you can also see detail vanish in some areas. Except that it really seems to only affect parts of the image that you don’t really care that much about. Night Mode has a remarkable if not uncanny ability to extract an image that is sometimes even sharper than the regular mode, with strong sharpening and detail retention occurring in areas that are selected by the camera during processing.

The iPhone 11’s camera is also the first one de With thinks rivals standalone cameras:

In the past, iPhones made great photos for sharing on social media, but blown up on a big screen, the shots didn’t hold up. It’s why I frequently still pack a ‘big’ camera with me on trips.

With these huge improvements in processing, the iPhone 11 is the first iPhone that legitimately challenges a dedicated camera.

There are many more details in de With’s article, including a close look at the iPhone 11’s ultra wide lens. Every section of the post has photos and side-by-side comparisons that illustrate the analysis too, which makes the full post a must-read].

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