John Voorhees

1837 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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MacStories Unwind: Apple Frames 2.0, an Upcoming Apple Event, and a Safari Extension for iPad

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24:48


Sponsored by: Discourse – A Powerful, Customizable Platform for Civilized Discussion

This week on MacStories Unwind:

MacStories

Club MacStories

  • MacStories Weekly
    • Federico on Remind Me Faster
    • A Reminders tip for applying tags to tasks with Siri
    • John on the future of read-it-later apps
    • Apps, links, and more

AppStories

Unwind


AppStories, Episode 244 – iOS and iPadOS 15 Top Tips

This week on AppStories, we share a long list of iOS and iPadOS 15 tips, highlighting lesser-known features that we are using to get the most out of the latest versions of the OSes.


On AppStories+, John tries to convince Federico to try a robot vacuum cleaner and Federico explains the technique he’s using to bring localization to his popular Apple Frames shortcut.

We deliver AppStories+ to subscribers with bonus content, ad-free, and at a high bitrate early every week.

To learn more about the benefits included with an AppStories+ subscription, visit our Plans page, or read the AppStories+ FAQ.

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Apple Announces October 18, 2021 Media Event

As tweeted by Greg Joswiak, Apple has announced an online media event for October 18, 2021, at 10:00 am Pacific.

Based on the latest speculation and rumors, Apple is likely to introduce new Apple silicon-based Macs. Apple has already replaced part of its Mac product line with models based on its own chip architecture, but it’s expected that the company is preparing to introduce new MacBook Pros and perhaps other models at the high end of its product line. Another product we could see introduced at the event is the long-rumored AirPods 3. With the winter holidays approaching, now seems like the perfect time to rekindle interest in AirPods.

Apple may also take the opportunity to announce a release date for macOS 12.0 Monterey. If last month’s Apple event and the timing of iOS and iPadOS are any indication, the final version of Monterey should be released to the public within days after the event.


ActiveTab Safari Extension Launched on iPad

Last week, I wrote about ActiveTab, a Safari extension that draws a colorful line beneath the active tab in Safari for Mac, which makes it far easier to identify the tab you’re viewing. However, the Mac isn’t the only platform where Safari’s tabs are problematic. As Federico explained in his iOS and iPadOS 15 review, it’s every bit as difficult to decypher which tab is active on the iPad.

Fortunately, ActiveTab is now available on the iPad too. The extension has the exact same features as the Mac version, making the active tab stand out by drawing a line across the top of the content view underneath the tab. If you haven’t installed a Safari extension on the iPhone or iPad yet, be sure to check out my story on iOS and iPadOS 15 Safari extensions for details on how to set them up.

ActiveTab has added new Blend Modes and custom colors to the app too.

ActiveTab has added new Blend Modes and custom colors to the app too.

Since I first wrote about ActiveTab, the app has been updated to allow you to add a custom color using RGBA values, in addition to the set of pre-defined options. The extension has added a Blend Mode option on both platforms too, which can help set the extension’s colored bar apart from its background in some circumstances.

If you haven’t checked out ActiveTab yet, it’s available on the App Store for $1.99.


MacStories Unwind: Halide’s Macro Mode, the AirPods Find My Update, and a Safari 15 Extension to Identify the Active Tab

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This week on MacStories Unwind:

MacStories

Club MacStories

  • MacStories Weekly
    • Federico rethinks personal task management with Due and a new shortcut
    • John reviews the Roomba j7
    • Peter Zarko-Flynn’s desk setup
  • MacStories Unplugged
    • Federico and John discuss how they advise friends and family about hardware updates, speculate about when the next Apple event will be and what the company might announce, and consider the impact Shortcuts bugs could have on automation across all of Apple’s platforms.

AppStories

Unwind


AppStories, Episode 243 – Safari Extensions for iPhone and iPad

This week on AppStories, we look at the best of the first Safari extensions released for the iPhone and iPad.


On AppStories+, we cover iPhone 13 Pro macro photography, Yoink’s ingenious clipboard feature, and Federico’s dedicated Metroid emulator device.

We deliver AppStories+ to subscribers with bonus content, ad-free, and at a high bitrate early every week.

To learn more about the benefits included with an AppStories+ subscription, visit our Plans page, or read the AppStories+ FAQ.

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Google Appears to Have Stopped Serving AMP Search Results to Safari Users on iOS and iPadOS 15

Update: Although Google has not commented on the lack of AMP links in its search results, Danny Sullivan has tweeted that their disappearance from iOS and iPadOS 15 is a bug that Google is working to fix.


Earlier today, developer Jeff Johnson published a story, noting that AMP links have seemingly vanished from Safari on iOS and iPadOS 15. AMP is Google’s cached URL system that’s designed to speed up the mobile web but often ruins website functionality and junks up URLs. I’ve never been a fan of AMP and neither has Federico.

Google search results for an article that returns AMP results on iOS 14 but not iOS 15.

Google search results for an article that returns AMP results on iOS 14 but not iOS 15.

iOS and iPadOS 15 introduced extensions to Safari, and one of the most popular categories has been extensions that redirect AMP links to the canonical version of the URL. I covered two of our favorites, Amplosion by Christian Selig and Overamped, both of which continue to be among the top paid Safari extensions on the App Store.

Safari extensions that redirect AMP URLs have proven popular on the App Store.

Safari extensions that redirect AMP URLs have proven popular on the App Store.

Jeff Johnson, the maker of Stop the Madness, another Safari extension that redirects AMP links, noticed, while updating his extension, that AMP links had disappeared from Google search results.

Johnson ran some tests:

With this User-Agent [iOS 15’s], there are no AMP links in Google search results, but if I simply change Version/15.0 to Version/14.0 and keep the rest the same, Google search results suddenly have AMP links again! This is reproducible on my iPhone, in the Xcode iPhone simulator, and also in desktop Safari Mac with its User-Agent spoofed as iPhone.

Google search results still return AMP URLs on iOS 14.

Google search results still return AMP URLs on iOS 14.

I’ve done some digging myself, as has Federico, and we have been able to reproduce the same results. I searched Google for an article published today on The Verge. Sure enough, on iOS 14, I get AMP results, but not on iOS 15, where the links point to theverge.com. I ran the same test using Google Chrome, Firefox, and Microsoft’s Edge browser on iOS 15, and all returned Google search results with AMP links. Safari for iOS and iPadOS 15 stands alone among these four browsers and is the only one that doesn’t return AMP links in Google search results.

I wondered what might be going on, so I contacted Google PR to see if they could explain it. I haven’t heard back yet but will update this story if I do.

Meanwhile, Johnson has a theory that seems plausible to me:

So, is it possible that Google has given up on AMP in Safari on iOS 15 because of the popularity of AMP blocking extensions? Who can say, but it’s certainly an interesting coincidence. I can say that it’s a very recent change. I know from my own testing that Google search results still included AMP links for the first week after iOS 15 was released on September 20.

The timing certainly lines up. I know there were AMP links to redirect when I was testing Amplosion and Overamped on the iOS 15 betas and shortly after its launch, but sometime in the past two weeks or so, they have completely vanished from Google search results in Safari for iOS and iPadOS 15. I hope the change sticks.


Halide 2.5 Adds New Macro Mode

Halide 2.5 is out, and it includes a brand new Macro Mode. Macro photography is an exclusive feature of the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max. Still, Halide has managed to make its Macro Mode available on the iPhone 8 and newer models thanks to some cool machine learning tricks.

Switching to Macro Mode and dialing in precise focus is simple with Halide 2.5.

Switching to Macro Mode and dialing in precise focus is simple with Halide 2.5.

Macro Mode is easy to use. When you open the app, auto-focus (AF) is selected by default. Tap it, and the focus controls slide into place with the auto-focus at one end of the app’s focus dial and Macro Mode (the button with the flower) at the other end. Select Macro Mode, and you’ll see a new focus dial with smaller increments appear. The Halide team says this enables sub-millimeter focusing for extra-precise close-up focusing.

Halide takes its close-ups by first switching to the camera on your iPhone that can take the closest shots. Focusing is handled by its precision focus dial, and the final step is to enhance the image’s details using an AI-based enhancement process. That last super-resolution step is what allows Halide’s Macro Mode to be used on cameras on older models of iPhones and to enhance Apple’s own macro system too.

In my testing over the past day, the results have been impressive. I’m especially fond of the precise focus dial that allows for minute adjustments that make a difference at such close range.

If you’re a Club MacStories+ and Club Premier member, head over to the new Photography channel in our Club Discord to see even more of my experiments with Halide’s Macro Mode and share your own macro shots.

Halide is available as on the App Store as a subscription for $2.99/month or $11.99/year or for a one-time payment of $49.99. The app also offers a 7-day free trial.


Hands On with AirPods’ New Find My Support

Yesterday, an AirPods firmware update was released, enabling new Find My features for Apple’s wireless headphones. Before the update, you could use Find My to see the last spot they were used, but that wasn’t always helpful if you carried them around for a while without opening the case before losing them.

With the firmware update, it’s easier to find misplaced AirPods Pro and AirPods Max. From Find My, choose your AirPods, and tap on the Find button. The app will begin searching for a signal and will suggest moving to a different location if it can’t find anything. In my tests, the time it took to locate the signal of my AirPods Pro varied from around 30-60 seconds when they were nearby.

Once Find My detects a signal, it will tell you whether your AirPods are nearby or far away, allowing you to move around to pinpoint the location. There’s also an option to play a sound through your AirPods to help locate them, which is handy once you’re close to them. However, with my AirPods Pro in their case, the sound playing from my AirPods Pro was understandably a little hard to hear. Also, you don’t have the benefit of the directional arrows you get when searching for an AirTag.

The feature worked well sitting at my desk with my iPhone and AirPods Pro sitting within sight of each other, but that’s not a realistic scenario. To get a better sense of the process, I put my AirPods under a pillow and blanket on our couch in another room on the same floor of our house. I went back to my office, opened Find My, and waited to see if it could pick up the signal roughly 10 meters away in a different room.

After about 30 seconds, Find My picked up a weak signal reporting that my AirPods Pro were far away. I began slowly walking through the house, watching Find My as it updated the distance to my AirPods from far to near and eventually ‘here.’ As I walked around and Find My updated, it provided haptic feedback with increasing frequency as I got closer to my AirPods Pro. I tried playing a sound on the AirPods Pro, but the pillow and blanket made the sound impossible to hear. However, the sound wasn’t really necessary because by the time Find My reported my AirPods as ‘here,’ I was right on top of them anyway, and they were easy to locate.

Found outside. Fortunately, my neighbors are used to my 5 AM experiments.

Found outside. Fortunately, my neighbors are used to my 5 AM experiments.

I also tried putting my AirPods Pro just outside my back door. Find My took a little longer to find a signal, and I had to be a little closer to the AirPods, but even though more walls, Find My picked up a signal.

I’ve only tested the new Find My feature in contrived scenarios so far, but I was impressed with the process. The feature isn’t going to pick up a signal if your AirPods are far away, but more often than not, I’ve simply misplaced my AirPods somewhere at home, and Find My should be perfect for that.