John Voorhees

2758 posts on MacStories since November 2015

John is MacStories’ Managing Editor and has been writing about Apple and apps since joining the team in 2015. He is also Federico’s business partner and co-hosts two MacStories podcasts: AppStories, which covers the world of apps and MacStories Unwind, which explores the fun differences between American and Italian culture and recommends media to listeners.


MacStories Unwind: A Small Fire at 3AM

This week on MacStories Unwind, I update listeners on my new 11” iPad Pro and Federico lights a fire, plus YouTube, app, and TV recommendations.



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What If…? – An Immersive Story Will Debut May 30th

Source: Disney+.

Source: Disney+.

Earlier this month, I linked to What If…? – An Immersive Story, which Marvel Studios and ILM Immersive developed for Disney+. The project is an Apple Vision Pro exclusive for which there were few details originally. Now, however, we have a trailer and a launch date. What If…? – An Immersive Story will be available to Disney+ subscribers in just over one week on May 30th:

The trailer’s description explains the project’s premise:

The Multiverse is in danger and The Watcher needs your help. Dangerous variants are hunting Infinity Stones and altering the fate of not only their realities, but yours as well. To save the fate of the Multiverse, you’ll need to use your own hands to learn mystic spells, defend your allies in epic battles, and more. But, be careful… everything might not be all that it seems.

Source: Disney+.

Source: Disney+.

I can’t wait to try What If…? – An Immersive Story. There hasn’t been a lot of new immersive content since the Vision Pro’s launch. However, along with the appearance of Parkour in the TV app, which is set for release in a couple of days, the pace seems to be picking up.


QuickTune: A Music Remote App for Mac with Tiger Vibes

I’m not usually nostalgic about apps. I appreciate classic designs from the past, but I find ‘new’ more exciting. However, for every rule, there’s an exception, and for me, it’s Mario Guzmán’s beautiful, pixel-perfect reimagining of classic Apple music apps.

Guzmán’s latest app is QuickTune, a remote control utility for Apple Music. The app is the spitting image of QuickTime 71 running on Mac OS X Tiger, with a sprinkling of modern features and fun interactions that make it a pleasure to use.

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A TestFlight Update: Patched, But Still Broken

Just over a year ago, I wrote about the poor performance of TestFlight, the app that App Store developers rely on for beta testing their own apps. Today, thanks to a couple rounds of Feedback submissions, TestFlight is working better than before, but it’s not fixed. With WWDC around the corner, I thought I’d provide a quick update and share a few suggestions for fixes and features I’d like to see Apple implement.

One of the benefits of writing about TestFlight last year was that it became clear to me that, although my use of the app was unique, I wasn’t alone. Other writers who test a lot of apps and super fans who love trying the latest versions of their favorite apps got in touch sharing similar experiences, which convinced me that the issue was related to the number of betas I had in TestFlight. My experience was one of the worst, but with others in a similar boat, I took the time to file a Feedback report to see if there was anything that could be done to improve TestFlight.

An example of a beta app set to automatically update. But at least on my iPhone, none do.

An example of a beta app set to automatically update. But at least on my iPhone, none do.

That initial Feedback attempt ultimately went nowhere. Then, I got busy and resigned myself to getting by as best I could. However, getting by was no longer an option as the Vision Pro’s release date approached. That added a significant number of new betas to my TestFlight collection. By March, the Mac version of TestFlight had stopped working entirely. With apps lined up in my review queue, that posed a problem I couldn’t work around.

I removed inactive betas using my iPhone and removed myself from testing as many active betas as I could bear. However, nothing worked, so I filed another report with the black box known as Feedback. Fortunately, this time, it worked. After some back-and-forth sharing logs and screen recordings of TestFlight failing to load any content, I received a message that something had been adjusted on Apple’s end to shake things loose. Just like that, TestFlight was working again, although sluggishly.

TestFlight once again loads betas on my Mac, but not always with icons.

TestFlight once again loads betas on my Mac, but not always with icons.

My immediate problem is fixed, and I’ve been managing old betas more carefully to avoid a repeat of what happened on the Mac before. However, it’s clear that TestFlight needs more than just the quick fix that solved the worst of my problems. First of all, although TestFlight works again on my Mac, it’s slow to load on all OSes and clearly in need of work to allow it to handle larger beta collections more gracefully. And there’s a lot of other low-hanging fruit that would make managing large beta collections better on every OS, including:

  • the addition of a search field to make it easier to quickly locate a particular app
  • sorting by multiple criteria like developer, app name, and app category
  • filtering to allow users to only display installed or uninstalled betas
  • a single toggle in the Settings app to turn off all existing and future email notifications of new beta releases
  • attention to the automatic installation of beta updates, which has never worked consistently for me
  • a versioning system that allows users to see whether the App Store version of an app has caught up to its beta releases
  • automatic installation of betas after an OS update or ‘factory restore’ because currently, those apps’ icons are installed, but they are not useable until they’re manually re-installed from TestFlight one-by-one

It’s time for Apple to spend some time updating TestFlight beyond the band-aid fix that got it working again for me. It’s been a full decade since Apple acquired TestFlight. Today, the app is crucial to iOS, iPadOS, watchOS, and visionOS development, and while it’s not as critical to macOS development, it’s used more often than not by Mac developers, too. Apple has gone to great lengths to explain the benefits of its developer program to justify its App Store commissions generally and the Core Technology Fee in the EU specifically. TestFlight is just one piece of that program, but it’s an important one that has been neglected for too long and no longer squares with the company’s professed commitment to developers.


AppStories, Episode 384 – Our 2024 iOS and iPadOS WWDC Wishes

This week on AppStories, we kick off our annual WWDC wishes episodes with a conversation about the changes they’d like to see made to iOS and iPadOS 18.


Sponsored by:

  • Things: a beautiful native app for Apple Vision Pro.

Our iOS and iPadOS 18 Wishes for WWDC


On AppStories+, I explain the three features that made me apprehensive about my iPad Pro purchase.

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

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MacStories Unwind: So, I Was Thinking About the iPad Pro…

This week on MacStories Unwind, Federico proposes an iPad Pro experiment and he and I both recommend Steam Early Access games, one of which is also on iOS.



This episode is sponsored by:

  • Kolide – It ensures that if a device isn’t secure it can’t access your apps. It’s Device Trust for Okta. Watch the demo now.

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Assassin’s Creed Shadows Is Coming to the Mac Day and Date with Consoles and Other Platforms

Source: Ubisoft.

Source: Ubisoft.

Today, Ubisoft announced that the next major release in the Assasin’s Creed franchise, Shadows, will be released on November 15th on its Ubisoft+ service, PlayStation 5, Xbox X|S, Amazon Luna, and Apple silicon Macs via the Mac App Store. According to Ubisoft:

Assassin’s Creed Shadows will immerse players in 16th century Japan. The country is heading towards a brutal path to unification, where unrest grows as new coalitions appear and corruptive foreign influences infiltrate the land.

The standard version of the game will cost $69.99 and can be pre-ordered on the Mac App Store now. Ubisoft also offers Collector’s and Ultimate editions of Assassin’s Creed Shadows, but neither variant will be sold through the App Store.

Still, the release of a major studio game for a popular franchise on the Mac App Store simultaneously with consoles and other services is notable. Many of the AAA titles that have found their way to the Mac App Store, like Death Stranding and the Resident Evil 4 remake were released on other platforms months before the Mac App Store. Perhaps the growing install base of Apple silicon Macs has begun to change the economics of big studio game releases in favor of the Mac.

Regardless of the reason, it’s good to see Assassin’s Creed Shadows coming to the Mac this fall. The release is still months away, but in the meantime, if you need an Assassin’s Creed fix on Apple platforms, Assassin’s Creed Mirage is set to launch on the iPhone and iPad on June 6th and can be pre-ordered on the App Store now.


Emulator-palooza

PPSSPP.

PPSSPP.

It’s been a big week for for emulators on iOS and iPadOS. It seems like yesterday when I was writing about Delta and being told ‘authoritatively’ online that it wouldn’t last. Yet here we are.

Last weekend, Gamma, a Sony PS1 emulator, was released. The emulator quickly appeared in the top free charts on the App Store, where Delta continues to hold steady in the top 25.

Then today, at roughly the exact same time two more well-known emulators made their debut on the App Store: PPSSPP and RetroArch. PPSSPP is a Sony PSP emulator, while RetroArch supports emulator cores for a wide variety of classic consoles.

I was out picking up my new iPad Pro when I got a heads up that both emulators were out from Brendon Bigley, who has covered both emulators on Wavelengths.

The PPSSPP release was announced by Henrik Rydgård on the emulator’s blog:

After nearly 12 years, PPSSPP has finally been approved for the iOS App Store! Thanks to Apple for relaxing their policies, allowing retro games console emulators on the store.

There are a few limitations to PPSSPP’s first App Store release compared to previous non-App Store versions:

  • Vulkan support through MoltenVK is not yet enabled
  • Magic Keyboard (iPad Keyboard) is not supported
  • The JIT recompiler is not supported
  • RetroAchievements is temporarily disabled

However, Rydgård says MoltenVK, Magic Keyboard Support, and RetoAchievements will all return to the app. JIT can’t be implemented unless Apple changes its stance on the recompiler, but Rydgård says most PSP games should run smoothly on modern hardware.

RetroArch

RetroArch

RetroArch is an even bigger deal in the sense that it contains cores for emulating a long list of classic videogame systems, including PPSSPP itself, along with Nintendo, Sega, Atari, other Sony systems, and more. One downside to RetroArch is that it’s about as non-native as an app like Delta is native, and I greatly prefer Delta’s iOS-centric approach. Still, it’s great to see RetroArch open up so many additional consoles on iOS and iPadOS.

I expect we’ll see even more game emulators on the iPhone and iPad before long, including Provenance, which is currently being beta-tested. I haven’t had a chance to spend time with these latest emulators yet, but I’m looking forward to seeing how they look on my new iPad Pro’s OLED display.


Apple Marks Global Accessibility Awareness Day with a Preview of OS Features Coming Later This Year

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Thursday is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, and to mark the occasion, Apple has previewed several new accessibility features coming to its OSes later this year. Although this accessibility preview has become an annual affair, this year’s preview is more packed than most years, with a wide variety of features for navigating UIs, automating tasks, interacting with Siri and CarPlay, enabling live captions in visionOS, and more. Apple hasn’t announced when these features will debut, but if past years are any indication, most should be released in the fall as part of the annual OS release cycle.

Eye Tracking

Often, Apple’s work in one area lends itself to new accessibility features in another. With Eye Tracking in iOS and iPadOS, the connection to the company’s work on visionOS is clear. The feature will allow users to look at UI elements on the iPhone and iPad, and the front-facing camera – combined with a machine learning model – will follow their gaze, moving the selection as what they look at changes. No additional hardware is necessary.

Eye Tracking also works with Dwell, meaning that when a user pauses their gaze on an interface element, it will be clicked. The feature, which requires a one-time calibration setup process, will work with Apple’s apps, as well as third-party apps, on iPhones and iPads with an A12 Bionic chip or newer.

Vocal Shortcuts

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Vocal Shortcuts provide a way to define custom utterances that launch shortcuts and other tasks. The phrases are defined on-device for maximum privacy using a process similar to Personal Voice. The feature is like triggering shortcuts with Siri, but it doesn’t require an assistant trigger word or phrase.

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