John Voorhees

817 posts on MacStories since November 2015

John joined MacStories in 2015. He is an editor and regular contributor to MacStories and the Club MacStories newsletters, co-hosts AppStories, a weekly podcast exploring the world of apps, with Federico, and handles sponsorship sales for MacStories and AppStories. John is also the creator of Blink, an iOS affiliate linking app for the iTunes Affiliate Program.

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The MacSparky iPhone Field Guide is Available Now

David Sparks has a knack for breaking down big topics and making them approachable with his series of MacSparky Field Guides. His latest book, the iPhone Field Guide, covers everything iPhone-related. The guide is Sparks’ most ambitious work yet, coming in at 450 pages with over 50 screencasts.

The raw numbers are only part of the story though. New iPhone owners will appreciate Sparks’ coverage of the basics and Apple’s stock apps, but there’s a lot here for more experienced iPhone users too. The book is full of short tutorials and app recommendations to help all users get more out of their iPhones. I especially like that many of the screencasts focus on third-party apps, which is a great way for readers to get a feel for them before deciding to download.

The iPhone Field Guide is a fantastic reference that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to anyone who wants to take their iPhone and iOS use to the next level. Skimming through the book, I found many MacStories favorites among the apps covered, and having them all available in a beautifully-designed, interactive iBook makes picking out new apps a pleasure.

The MacSparky iPhone Field Guide is available on the iBooks Store for an introductory price of $19.99, which will increase at a later date.



Apple Is Now Fully-Powered by Renewable Energy

Apple announced today that its global facilities, which include retails store, offices, data centers, and co-located facilities in 43 countries are powered by 100 percent clean energy. Apple CEO Tim Cook said:

“We’re committed to leaving the world better than we found it. After years of hard work we’re proud to have reached this significant milestone,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We’re going to keep pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the materials in our products, the way we recycle them, our facilities and our work with suppliers to establish new creative and forward-looking sources of renewable energy because we know the future depends on it.”

The list of Apple’s renewable energy projects around the world is impressive, as are the aggregate numbers involved:

Apple currently has 25 operational renewable energy projects around the world, totaling 626 megawatts of generation capacity, with 286 megawatts of solar PV generation coming online in 2017, its most ever in one year. It also has 15 more projects in construction. Once built, over 1.4 gigawatts of clean renewable energy generation will be spread across 11 countries.

Apple also announced the names of nine additional manufacturing partners that have committed to powering their Apple production with 100 percent clean energy, which brings the total number to 23.

In addition to its press release, Apple’s Vice President of environment, policy, and social initiatives Lisa Jackson sat down with Fast Company for an interview:

According to Jackson, it would have been easy enough for Apple to trumpet its landmark achievement in renewable energy earlier. “If you look at our trajectory, for the last couple of years we’ve been close to 100%,” she says. “It’s just four percent more, but it’s four percent done the right way. So this announcement feels like a classic Apple product release. Like our products, we sweat the details, we have pretty strict standards, and we prefer to wait and meet our standards than to rush and make a claim.”

Fast Company’s feature is an in-depth look at Apple’s clean energy initiatives that excels at providing context and a sense of the scope of the effort. One such example is Apple’s enormous Nevada data center:

You have to see Apple’s Reno, Nevada, data center from the inside to truly understand how huge it is. It’s made up of five long white buildings sitting side by side on a dry scrubby landscape just off I-80, and the corridor that connects them through the middle is a quarter-mile long. On either side are big, dark rooms–more than 50 of them–filled with more than 200,000 identical servers, tiny lights winking in the dark from their front panels.

The Fast Company profile is worth reading in its entirety because it also dives deep into the role of Renewable Energy Certificates and suppliers in Apple’s clean energy projects. The article provides the substance behind Tim Cook’s press release statement, backing up the company’s renewable energy claims with a close look at every facet of the initiative.


iMovie for Mac Adds App Preview Creation for the iPhone X and Additional iPad Sizes

Developers can use iMovie for Mac to create the App Preview videos that you see in the App Store. It isn’t a new feature, but until version 10.1.9 was released today, the feature did not support the iPhone X or certain iPad sizes.

Other video editing apps can be used to create App Previews, but iMovie is convenient because it automatically configures export settings to meet the requirements of App Previews. The trouble is, releasing an update to support the iPhone X that was released five months ago is too late. To make the feature useful to Apple’s best developers who support new hardware as soon as it’s released, these sorts of updates should coincide the debut of new iOS devices.

Version 10.1.9 of iMovie also includes numerous bug fixes.


Inko: A Collaborative Whiteboard for iPad, iPhone, and Apple TV [Sponsor]

Inko is a collaborative whiteboard that lets several people draw together using multiple iPads or iPhones, and even interact on Apple TV. Ideal for teams of coworkers in a brainstorming session, for a creative classroom project, or for an interactive meeting between a graphic designer and their client.

Creating a group and starting to drawing together is easy. There's no complex network setup, or even any network at all, thanks to nearby connectivity. With peer-to-peer connections, you can work wherever you are, be it in a bar or on the beach. Your drawings can also be displayed on the big screen, thanks to the free companion app for Apple TV. The app instantly connects and interacts with all devices in the room, making it a great alternative to those bulky and expensive interactive boards.

Even though Inko is both simple and intuitive, it's also backed with sophisticated, advanced features like vibrant colors and beautiful pixel-free drawing display that stays sharp when zooming in. Inko also offers precise Apple Pencil support for an amazing lag-free, undo-capable, real-time drawing experience, as well as hi-res PDF exports to share with your group when you’re finished.

Inko’s Collaboration Pack is 20% OFF ($15.99 instead of $19.99) this week only. Hint: the discounted Collaboration Pack also entitles you to the introductory subscription price.

Our thanks to Inko for sponsoring MacStories this week.


Apple Announces iPhone 8 and 8 Plus (PRODUCT)RED Models

Today, Apple introduced a (PRODUCT)RED version of the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Following in the footsteps of last year’s (PRODUCT)RED iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, Apple has introduced a special edition of its latest iPhone 8 to benefit the charity (RED). A portion of the profits generated by the new iPhone will be donated to (RED) to help fight AIDS.

The new iPhones, which were leaked via an internal Virgin Mobile memorandum, have a red back like the iPhone 7 did, but this year, the bezel of the (PRODUCT)RED iPhone is black instead of white. The new phone comes in 64GB and 256GB storage configurations and goes on sale online tomorrow, April 10, 2018 starting at $699 and will be available in stores Friday. In addition, Apple will release a new PRODUCT(RED) Leather Folio tomorrow for $99.


Twitter Delays Transition to New API That Threatens Third-Party Clients

Last April, Twitter announced that it would deprecate parts of its API that third-party Twitter clients rely on for their apps. Originally, Twitter planned to replace the functionality with a new Account Activity API on June 19, 2018. The trouble is, Twitter hasn’t provided third-party developers with access to the new API, which jeopardizes core functionality of those apps.

With the API transition looming, the makers of Twitterrific, Tweetbot, Talon, and Tweetings created a website to alert their users about the impact the changes to third-party Twitter clients:

After June 19th, 2018, “streaming services” at Twitter will be removed. This means two things for third-party apps:

  1. Push notifications will no longer arrive
  2. Timelines won’t refresh automatically

If you use an app like Talon, Tweetbot, Tweetings, or Twitterrific, there is no way for its developer to fix these issues.

We are incredibly eager to update our apps. However, despite many requests for clarification and guidance, Twitter has not provided a way for us to recreate the lost functionality. We've been waiting for more than a year.

The site encourages users to express their feelings about the situation to Twitter’s developer account with the hashtag #BreakingMyTwitter.

The response from unhappy Twitter users was swift. By the end of the day, Twitter announced that it would delay the API transition to an unspecified date in the future and provide at least 90 days notice to third parties before shutting down the old APIs.

Although it is good news that Twitter’s transition to the Accounts API has been put off, it doesn’t solve the issues that it raises for third-party developers.

Tension between Twitter and third-party developers isn’t new. Still, when Jack Dorsey returned to Twitter as CEO in 2015, he said he wanted to repair relationships with developers. It’s impossible to know if this latest episode represents a strategic shift for Twitter or mere indifference toward third-party developers. Either way, it’s a shame to see third-party Twitter clients, which pioneered many features that users love, under threat yet again.


Snapchat Debuts Exclusive iPhone X Lens Filters

At last September’s iPhone event at Apple Park, Craig Federighi, Senior Vice President of software engineering, used Snapchat to show how the iPhone X’s True Depth camera and ARKit could create realistic camera filters. Today, those filters finally launched with an update to Snapchat’s iOS app, which is featured in the Today section of the App Store.

Craig Federighi demonstrating Snapchat Lens filters in September 2017

Craig Federighi demonstrating Snapchat Lens filters in September 2017

The update includes the two filters demoed by Federighi during the keynote, as well as a masquerade ball Lens. The advantage of using the True Depth camera and ARKit is that the filters can track your face better than other Snapchat Lenses and account for the lighting in the room, providing realistic highlights and shadows.

The new filters are available now without updating Snapchat’s app. If you long press the screen with the selfie camera enabled, the new lenses are currently the first three listed.

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Medical ID Record Provides an Extended, More Flexible Solution to Storing Medical Data

Many of the stock system apps installed with iOS are designed to meet the needs of most people, but they rarely satisfy everyone. Apple leaves it to third-party developers to fill in the gaps. That comes with the risk of being ‘Sherlocked’ in the future, but it’s also an opportunity for developers to attract users who want more than Apple provides.

Medical ID Record is a perfect example of such an app. It takes a feature of the Health app and extends it. The depth of functionality in Medical ID Record may not be needed by everyone, but it’s an excellent option for anyone who has felt constrained by the Health app’s Medical ID feature.

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