John Voorhees

1209 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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iOS and iPadOS 13 Review Extras: eBooks, Wallpapers, Shortcuts, Podcasts, and Making Of

Today, Apple released iOS 13, watchOS 6, and Apple Arcade, and tomorrow, the iPhone 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max, and Apple Watch Series 5 will begin arriving on doorsteps worldwide. The publication of Federico’s iOS and iPadOS 13 review makes it a big day for MacStories too, which has evolved in recent years into a multi-week affair when combined with the Club MacStories anniversary, our iOS 13 app coverage, and related podcasts.

As in the past, the centerpiece of our coverage is Federico’s iOS and iPadOS 13 review. We’re also excited to share Alex Guyot’s comprehensive watchOS 6 review with you tomorrow, as well as a long list of app updates and debuts that spotlight the new features of iOS 13 that we will be publishing in the coming days.

We’ve got a lot more in store though, including a bunch of Club MacStories exclusives.

Among the Club-only extras this year are two eBooks, a set of stunning desktop and mobile wallpapers, advanced shortcuts, and bonus podcast episodes. Check out all of the details after the break. If you’d like to learn more about the Club or sign up to take advantage of all these extras, plus perks from previous years, please visit club.macstories.net.

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Austin Mann on the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro Cameras

Source: austinmann.com

Source: austinmann.com

Every year I look forward to Austin Mann taking the latest iPhones through their paces somewhere in the world. This year, Mann is on tour with cellist Yo-Yo Ma in China where he went out into the countryside to capture some stunning portraits and landscapes.

Mann’s review covers the new Ultra Wide lens, Night Mode, Smart HDR improvements, and ability to capture outside the frame, along with wishes for additional improvements. Mann’s take on Night Mode:

As long as I can remember, the top question I’ve received from iPhone photographers, beginners and pros alike, is How can I shoot better pictures in low light? This year’s addition of Night mode is the answer to the question. It’s easy to use, crazy powerful, and because it’s automatic it will completely change how everyone shoots on their iPhone.

Mann confirms what seemed to be the case from the photos that Apple showed off last week at its event in Cupertino – Apple has implemented Night Mode in a way that doesn’t try to turn night into day:

One thing I love about Apple’s approach to Night mode is the strategic balance of solving a technical problem while also caring deeply about artistic expression. When you look at the image above, it’s clear their team didn’t take the let’s-make-night-look-like-day approach, as some of their competitors have. Instead, it feels more like an embrace of what it actually is (night) while asking, “How do we capture the feel of this scene in a beautiful way?”

How Apple accomplishes Night Mode is interesting. As Mann explains:

From what I understand, the way Night mode actually works is the camera captures a bunch of short exposures and slightly longer exposures, checks them for sharpness, throws out the bad ones and blends the good ones. On a traditional dSLR/mirrorless camera, a 5 second exposure is one single, continuous recording of the light throughout the duration of the shutter so any movement (of subject or camera) is recorded.

But with iPhone 11 Pro the rules are different… it’s not capturing one single continuous frame but blending a whole bunch of shots with variable lengths (some shorter exposures to freeze motion and longer shots to expose the shadows.) This means the subject can actually move during your exposure but still remain sharp.

If you’ve been wondering about the new Ultra Wide camera on the new iPhones or the other new features of the camera app, be sure to check out Austin Mann’s full review for great technical and artistic insights about what Apple has accomplished with its new cameras as well as some absolutely fantastic examples of what they can do.

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PCalc 3.9 Adds Dark Mode and the Latest Shortcuts Features, Expanding the App’s Automation Capabilities

Last year when Siri shortcuts debuted on iOS 12, developer James Thomson added one of the first and best implementations for creating custom shortcuts with his calculator app PCalc. However, iOS 12 required PCalc to rely on the system clipboard as a means of passing inputs to calculations and then outputting the results, which added complexity to shortcuts that used PCalc actions. iOS and iPadOS 13 free PCalc of that constraint, and with the addition of parameter support and the conversational Siri shortcuts coming in iOS and iPadOS 13.1, PCalc’s automation features are vastly more powerful.

Federico’s review of PCalc 3.8 featured a shortcut called PCalc Currencies, which is a terrific example of what a PCalc-based shortcut looked like in iOS 12. The shortcut coverts Euros to US Dollars and British Pounds. The first step is to pass the number of Euros to the shortcut from the system clipboard and then create a variable to store that value. Next, the shortcut uses PCalc’s conversion action to calculate the US Dollar equivalent, store it in a separate variable, and then do the same for pounds. The final step displays the results using each of the three currency variables. In total, the shortcut uses twelve actions, many of which involve moving data on and off the clipboard.

PCalc Currencies for iOS 12 (left) and iOS 13 (right).

PCalc Currencies for iOS 12 (left) and iOS 13 (right).

With PCalc’s new Shortcuts actions, we can reduce the number of actions from twelve to just four. It’s a fantastic demonstration of the power that iOS and iPadOS 13 add to third-party shortcut actions and the reduction in complexity that can be achieved with even a relatively simple shortcut. Okay, let’s update Federico’s shortcut.

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AppStories, Episode 129 – The Apps of Apple’s Fall Event

On this week’s episode of AppStories, we dive into the new and updated apps announced at Apple’s fall keynote including Compass, Camera, and the upcoming Apple Arcade game subscription service.

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Arcade Launches for Some iOS Beta Testers

Earlier today, a series of reviews of Apple Arcade were published across the web and on YouTube. Shortly thereafter, Apple took the wraps off the service itself for at least a subset of people running the iOS 13 or 13.1 betas. Arcade doesn’t officially launch until September 19th, but it appears that Apple is using a slow roll-out to some beta testers to test the service and create buzz around the launch.

The design of the Arcade tab is reminiscent of the App Store’s other tabs, although more space is reserved for spotlighting individual titles, and so far, there is little editorial content. It will be interesting to see how this mix evolves as more games become available and more editorial content is created. In addition to themed collections like ‘Start Your Adventure’ and ‘No Time to Blink,’ Arcade has a section dedicated to ‘New Arrivals,’ includes hint guides for three of the games and a button at the bottom of the view for accessing every game in the service.

The activation of Arcade for some users coincided with a press release from Apple highlighting four games by smaller game studios: The Enchanted World, Patterned, Overland, and Card of Darkness. I haven’t had a chance to comb through the entire catalog yet, but there are a lot of great-looking games featured at launch that jumped out at me including:

I’m looking forward to trying all of these as well as discovering new titles.

As I said on AppStories this week, I’ve been cautiously optimistic and excited about Arcade. What I’ve seen of the new service in my brief time with it so far today is perfectly in line with what I hoped for. Apple seems to have struck a nice balance among many different categories of games, and with only about half of the 100+ titles that should be coming soon, that is an excellent start.


Techmeme Ride Home, iPhone Event Debrief with John Voorhees of MacStories

On today’s weekend interview episode of Techmeme Ride Home, I was interviewed by Brian McCullough all about this week’s Apple event. We discussed the backlash against Apple events, how the company’s keynotes are evolving into something more than a showcase for iPhones, and then dove into all the new hardware and services announced.

As always, it was a pleasure to dig into the details as well as the big-picture implications of the week’s news with McCullough. You can find the episode on Apple Podcasts.

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The Potential of the iPhone 11’s Ultra Wideband U1 Chip

A feature of the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro that didn’t get stage time this week was Apple’s new U1 chip, which adopts the relatively new Ultra Wideband wireless technology. The UWB Alliance, an industry trade group, describes the technology as follows:

UWB is a unique radio technology that can use extremely low energy levels for short-range, high-bandwidth communications over a large portion of the radio spectrum. Devices powered by a coin cell can operate for a period of years without recharge or replacement. UWB technology enables a broad range of applications, from real-time locating and tracking, to sensing and radar, to secure wireless access, and short message communication. The flexibility, precision and low-power characteristics of UWB give it a unique set of capabilities unlike any other wireless technology.

For now, all Apple has said is that the U1 chip will permit users to point an iPhone 11 at another iPhone 11 and “and AirDrop will prioritize that device so you can share files faster.” However, the same iPhone 11 Pro preview page also notes that the U1 is “going to lead to amazing new capabilities.” In light of recent rumors that Apple is developing a hardware tag for tracking your belongings, it’s not hard to imagine at least one application that the company probably has in mind. However, Tile-like item tracking is just the tip of the iceberg.

Over on Six Colors, Jason Snell has dug deeper into UWB technology. Snell spoke to Mickael Viot, the VP of marketing at UWB chipmaker Decawave, to better understand other use cases for UWB:

But the possible applications of UWB go way beyond AirDrop and tracking tags. Decawave’s Viot says potential applications include smart home tech, augmented reality, mobile payments, the aforementioned keyless car entry, and even indoor navigation. (And it’s not a power hog, either—Viot says that Decawave’s latest UWB chip uses one-third of the power of a Bluetooth LE chip when in beacon mode, as a tracking tile would be.)

It’s interesting to consider what UWB could enable, especially inside the home. Apple will expand the automation capabilities of NFC tags, which are useful for home automation setups, in iOS and iPadOS 13.1. However, NFC tags still need to be scanned to trigger actions. UWB has the potential to go well beyond NFC by using spatial awareness and presence to expand how we interact and automate all sorts of smart devices.

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New HomePod Details Emerge

The HomePod was conspicuously absent from yesterday’s Apple keynote. However, the company has quietly updated the HomePod’s product page with new details, as spotted by Benjamin Mayo of 9to5Mac.

According to Mayo,

Firstly, the radio stations feature is launching on HomePod on September 30. However, the previously-announced multi-user support and the music handoff features are not coming in September. Apple simply says ‘later this fall’. They also teased a new white noise mode that they hadn’t talked about before…

The new Ambient Sounds feature will allow users to play sounds including “ocean waves, forest birds, rainstorms, and more.”

Although Apple doesn’t say so, the September 30th timing for radio station support suggests that the feature is dependent on the release of iOS and iPadOS 13.1, which is due for release that same day. The company’s OS release schedule is far more complicated this year than in the recent past. For those interested in all the product launch and OS update release dates, we’ve collected a complete list of all dates on MacStories.

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New iPhone Cases Join a New Lineup of Apple Watch Bands

The new iPhones and Apple Watch Series 5 won’t arrive on your doorstep for a little while yet, but you can order iPhone cases today for delivery September 13th and admire them until your new hardware arrives. Many Watch bands will be available on September 20th, but some of the pricier models won’t be in Apple Stores or delivered until sometime in October. Note too, that some of the Hermès bands don’t come in both Watch sizes.

To make comparing colors easier, we’ve created a gallery of every available case and band after the break; all 58 of them.

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