John Voorhees

1310 posts on MacStories since November 2015

John, who is the managing editor of MacStories and Club MacStories, 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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Eero WiFi Routers Add HomeKit Support

Amazon’s Eero routers are the first out of the gate with HomeKit support, which promises to provide greater security to your Internet-connected HomeKit devices.

The update, which appeared today via an update to Eero’s iOS app, walks users through the setup process of adding their Eero gateway to the Home app. Along the way, the Eero app explains that enabling HomeKit support allows Eero to firewall off each HomeKit device, so they only communicate with approved devices and services.

Setting up security for HomeKit devices.

Setting up security for HomeKit devices.

Users can set the level of security for each of their HomeKit devices from inside the Eero app’s setup process by choosing ‘More Options’ from HomeKit Accessory Security screen. Alternatively, security settings can be modified from Apple’s Home app. The three security levels available include:

  • Restrict to Home, which only allows connections to your home hub, which the setting warns may block firmware updates or other services.
  • Automatic, which allows connections to manufacturer-approved services and devices
  • No Restriction, which allows connections to any service or device
Adding your Eero router to an existing HomeKit room and viewing its settings in the Home app.

Adding your Eero router to an existing HomeKit room and viewing its settings in the Home app.

I don’t currently use an Eero router as my main WiFi router, but I have a spare one, so I gave the setup process a try. The instructions for setting up HomeKit support were clear and easy to follow as you’d expect given Eero’s reputation for simplifying home networking. I wasn’t able to find the Eero router in the Home app initially, but as a reader pointed out, it’s near the bottom of the Home app’s settings that appear when you tap the house icon from the Home tab. I hope more router makers add this to their products soon. The promise of being able to limit access to more sensitive HomeKit devices like cameras and alarm systems is certainly an enticing one.

Eero’s updated app is available on the App Store as a free download.


AppStories, Episode 151 – Apple’s Blending of Apps and Services

This week on AppStories, we explore how Apple is increasingly blending services with its apps, where the mix has worked, where it hasn’t, and where we expect the trend will lead next.

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First Look: RTRO by Moment Vintage Video Camera App

Source: Moment.

Source: Moment.

RTRO by Moment is a brand new vintage video camera app for iOS from the makers of my favorite add-on camera lenses for the iPhone and the excellent Moment Pro Camera app.

The app is a new direction for Moment. The company’s Pro Camera app, combined with its add-on lenses for the iPhone, push the boundaries of what’s possible with the iPhone’s camera. Packed with settings and customizations, the Pro Camera app can create stunning photos and video in the hands of a skilled photographer.

In contrast, RTRO is a video-only camera app focused first and foremost on making fun, short videos for sharing that use filters crafted by photographers to create unique retro looks. It’s those filters, which Moment calls ‘looks,’ paired with a simple, approachable interface that make the app work. It’s easy to get started, fun to use, and the videos the app creates have a unique vibe that makes even the most mundane video more interesting for viewers.

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Twitter Simplifies Adding Tweets to Past Threads

Yesterday, Twitter rolled out a useful new feature that makes it easier to append new tweets to a past thread in its iOS app. Although you could already find an old thread and add to it, the new feature lets you do so from inside the compose field. That way, you can start a fresh tweet and decide after you’ve written it that you want to tack it onto an old thread.

The mechanic is simple. From the tweet compose view, pull down. Your most recent tweet will appear so you can continue it as a thread. Alternatively, there’s also an ellipses button next to ‘Continue Thread’ that you can tap, and all of your tweets come into view in reverse chronological order. Pick one, and the tweet you were composing is added to that thread. If you have second thoughts, there’s still an option to remove the tweet from the thread before tapping the Tweet button and sending the new message.

Twitter announced the feature with a tweet that includes a GIF demonstrating how it works:

Features like this have slowly but surely led me to start using the official Twitter app again. It’s been a painful process after years of using third-party Twitter clients, and I’m still doing a lot of my tweet reading in Tweetbot where I have an extensive collection of muted terms. Yet, as my overall time using the service has waned a little, I’ve found that the features that I can’t get from third-party apps have drawn me in more and more.


HomeCam 2 Brings Auto Cycling of Camera Feeds, Improved Data Layers, and More

HomeCam by Aaron Pearce, which consolidates all of your HomeKit-compatible cameras into a simple, streamlined UI, has been updated to version 2.0 across the many platforms it supports. I’ve been a fan of the app since it debuted, and this update is an excellent refinement of the app’s original concept.

The value of HomeCam lies in its elegant UI that focuses first and foremost on your HomeKit video cameras. Apple’s Home app displays feeds from HomeKit cameras in one of two places. You can add them as favorite devices, so they show up at the bottom of the Home tab. Otherwise, though, your cameras only show up in the rooms to which they are assigned where they compete for space and attention with other accessories and scenes and aren’t live until tapped. I’ve been testing HomeCam with two Logitech Circle 2 cameras and an abode iota security kit camera, and the app’s design and availability on a wide variety of devices adds a level of flexibility to monitoring multiple cameras that isn’t possible with Apple’s system app.

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Adobe Unveils Photoshop Updates for the iPad and Mac on Its 30th Anniversary

Source: Adobe.

Source: Adobe.

Not many apps can say they’ve been around for 30 years, but that’s how long it’s been since Photoshop 1.0 launched. To coincide with the milestone, Adobe has released updates to Photoshop for the iPad and the Mac. We haven’t tried either update yet, but from the press demo I received, the updates to both versions of Photoshop appear substantial and promise to improve the experience of using the app significantly.

The Object Selection tool. Source: Adobe.

The Object Selection tool. Source: Adobe.

On the iPad, Photoshop already has a Subject Selection tool that lets users quickly select the primary subject of an image, but now, it also has a new Object Selection tool that works a little differently. Object Selection works best when there are multiple subjects in an image, and you want to select just one. After tapping the Object Selection tool, you trace an outline around the object you want to select. Then, Photoshop uses some software magic to figure out what you want and snaps the selection to the object. Finally, you can clean up the selection, adding and subtracting parts using Photoshop’s Touch Shortcut UI. It’s fantastic to see this tool, which just came to the Mac a few months ago at Adobe MAX, already part of the iPad app.

Photoshop for iPad's new type settings. Source: Adobe.

Photoshop for iPad’s new type settings. Source: Adobe.

The other headlining feature on the iPad is better typography settings. There are now type layer, character, and options properties that include tracking, leading, scaling, and other adjustments that can be made to text. It’s not quite the complete set of tools available on the desktop, but it appears to be a substantial improvement over the previous version of the iPad app.

The Mac version of Photoshop has also been updated too. Lens Blur has been moved from the CPU to the GPU for better performance. The app can also read the depth map from images taken with an iPhone and other smartphones, which can be edited in Photoshop to get the exact focal point and look that you want.

The old version of Lens Blur (left) and the new version (right). Source: Adobe.

The old version of Lens Blur (left) and the new version (right). Source: Adobe.

The Content-Aware Fill workspace has been improved too. Now, you can make multiple selections and apply multiple fills in the workspace, whereas before users had to leave the workspace and reenter it between selections.

Photoshop for iPad was released in early November 2019 with the promise of frequent updates to fill the gaps between it and its desktop sibling. So far, Adobe has lived up to that commitment with substantial updates last December and today. Another indication that Adobe is serious about mobile is evident from the Photoshop webpage, which prominently features the app.

Still, there is still plenty of work to be done before Photoshop for iPad rivals the desktop Photoshop experience. In addition to features that haven’t migrated from the desktop to the iPad yet, I’d like to see Adobe implement iPadOS system features like drag and drop, so I can drag images from Lightroom or other photo editors into Photoshop, context menus, which seem like a natural fit for an app with so many settings, options, and actions, and multiwindowing. My hope is that new functionality like keyboard event detection and whatever Apple has in store for iPadOS 14 will make it easier for Adobe to refine Photoshop further and continue to implement the most powerful desktop features on the iPad too.

Photoshop for iPad is a free update that is available on the App Store and requires a subscription. The Mac version of Photoshop is available directly from Adobe.


Developer Crunchy Bagel Releases a Mac Catalyst Version of Streaks

I’ve used Streaks on and off since its introduction. The app is a fantastic way to track and establish new habits. When it was launched, Streaks was iPhone-only. Since then, however, the app has added iPad support, an Apple Watch companion, Health app and Shortcuts integrations, new customizations, and other features, all while maintaining its distinctive, brightly-colored UI and fantastic iconography.

Today’s update adds Mac support to the mix via a brand new Catalyst app. There are a few differences between the Mac app and its iOS and iPadOS counterparts, but if you already use Streaks on an existing platform, the nearly-identical Mac version will feel familiar immediately.

iPhone screenshot scaled down for easier comparison with the Mac app.

iPhone screenshot scaled down for easier comparison with the Mac app.

By the same token, newcomers who discover Streaks on the Mac may have a hard time adapting to the app’s approach. Modal views that slide into place from the bottom of the screen like an iOS app, ‘Done’ buttons and custom controls to close views, and fixed window dimensions aren’t design elements typically found on the Mac.

Coming from using the iOS app, though, the only place I found things hard to get used to was the ‘long click’ that replaces a long press on iOS and iPadOS for completing a task or entering editing mode, for example. On balance, though, I think Streaks’ long history and large audience on iOS largely negate the downsides of its atypical interactions.

All the core features of Streaks on iOS and iPadOS are available on the Mac too.

All the core features of Streaks on iOS and iPadOS are available on the Mac too.

By and large, the functionality of the Mac version of Streaks is the same as the iOS and iPadOS versions. However, as you would expect, platform-specific settings that don’t make sense on a Mac, like Face ID and management of the Apple Watch app, are missing.

iCloud sync works well overall, too, syncing habit data, but not settings, running timers, and themes, which is also the case on the iPhone and iPad. However, I’ve noticed in my testing that the Mac version of Streaks is occasionally slow to update with changes from iOS. Even so, the two versions didn’t stay out of sync long since the apps coordinate their data every time the Catalyst app is reopened.

Streaks is a fantastic addition to the Mac by virtue of its nature as an activity tracker. It’s an app that fills a gap. If I don’t have my iPhone nearby, there’s a very good chance I’m working on my Mac or iPad. The inclusion of a Mac version of Streaks, like the iPad support that came before it, reduces the friction of tracking a new habit I’m trying to form, giving me even fewer excuses not to keep on top of my goals. As a result, even though I don’t expect to use the Mac app as often as Streaks on my iPhone, I’m glad I have that option now.

For more on Streaks, check out my reviews of the original app, as well as versions 3 and 4. Streaks for the Mac is available on the Mac App Store for $4.99.


Apple Warns that It Expects to Miss Quarterly Revenue Guidance Due to COVID-19 Outbreak in China

Apple has announced that it does not expect to meet its revenue projections for the March quarter as a result of the COVID-19 virus outbreak in China, which the company says has resulted in a slower return to normal conditions than expected at the time of its Q1 2020 earnings call held on January 28th. Apple cited two factors that will reduce revenue for the current quarter:

The first is that worldwide iPhone supply will be temporarily constrained. While our iPhone manufacturing partner sites are located outside the Hubei province — and while all of these facilities have reopened — they are ramping up more slowly than we had anticipated. The health and well-being of every person who helps make these products possible is our paramount priority, and we are working in close consultation with our suppliers and public health experts as this ramp continues. These iPhone supply shortages will temporarily affect revenues worldwide.

The second is that demand for our products within China has been affected. All of our stores in China and many of our partner stores have been closed. Additionally, stores that are open have been operating at reduced hours and with very low customer traffic. We are gradually reopening our retail stores and will continue to do so as steadily and safely as we can. Our corporate offices and contact centers in China are open, and our online stores have remained open throughout.

Although Apple has not provided revised March quarter revenue guidance, the company said that customer demand for its products and services outside of China has been strong and in line with its expectations.

Apple also announced in its press release that it is more than doubling its donation to support China’s public health effort.

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