Federico is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of MacStories, where he writes about Apple with a focus on apps, developers, iPad, and iOS productivity. He founded MacStories in April 2009 and has been writing about Apple since. Federico is also the co-host of AppStories, a weekly podcast exploring the world of apps, and Dialog, a show where creativity meets technology.
Following a tip by one of our members in the Club MacStories+ Discord server last night (if you haven’t joined yet, now’s a great time to do so), I came across the settings page on the beta.icloud.com website to configure a custom domain and email address with iCloud Mail. This is the direct link to the settings page; it was working last night, but it seems to be having some issues today.
Custom domains in iCloud Mail is a feature Apple announced for the “rebranded” iCloud+ service at WWDC, which I’ve been curious to try for two reasons: I have a personal domain laying around I can use to test this, and iCloud Mail – unlike Gmail – supports proper push notifications on iOS. Given the beta nature of this feature, I am not recommending you try this with your primary email address right now; I set it up with a secondary email address I barely used before.
Our new web app for Club MacStories and AppStories, Calliope.
Yesterday, we unveiled the all-new Club MacStories, featuring the new Club MacStories+ and Club Premier tiers, a new web app, a Discord community, new original content for members, and more. You can read my announcement here, and sign up for (or upgrade to) the new Club MacStories plans here. We believe the best option is Club Premier, which bundles Club MacStories+ and AppStories+ in a single package at $12/month.
Today, I want to dive deeper into Calliope, our brand new web app that, for the first time, allows all Club members to read our content, including MacStories Weekly, on the web. As I highlighted in my article from yesterday, there’s a lot more Calliope can do, especially if you subscribe to Club MacStories+ or Club Premier; I want to take a closer look at its advanced features so members can properly take advantage of everything we built over the past year.
TL;DR: Today, we’re announcing the all-new Club MacStories featuring two additional tiers: Club MacStories+ and Club Premier. The new plans offer extra content, a brand new, powerful web app to read Club articles on the web with advanced search and RSS features, exclusive discounts, and a new Discord community.
Club Premier is the ultimate plan that includes all of Club MacStories, Club MacStories+, and the new extended, ad-free AppStories+ podcast in a single, $12/month package. It is the best value and the easiest way to get access to everything we do. It is, effectively, the MacStories all-access pass.
You can find out more on our new Plans page and sign up or upgrade there. Nothing is changing for the regular Club MacStories tier; in fact, we’re giving existing members access to our new web app at club.macstories.net as well. Existing Club members can choose to upgrade their existing accounts to the new tiers.
Today, we’re launching the future of Club MacStories and MacStories itself. Read on for the full announcement below.
Last month, after a long beta period I’ve participated in for the past few months, the official Obsidian app for iPhone and iPad launched on the App Store. I’ve covered Obsidian and my approach to writing my annual iOS review in it on both AppStories and Connected; because I’m busy with that massive project and an upcoming major relaunch of the Club (hint hint), I don’t have time right now to work on a proper standalone, in-depth review of Obsidian for MacStories. So, given my time constraints, I thought it’d be fun to do a multi-part series for Club members on how I’ve set up and have been using Obsidian as my Markdown text editor and note-taking app of choice.
For the past three weeks, I’ve been running the developer beta of iOS and iPadOS 15 on my iPhone 12 Pro Max and M1 iPad Pro, respectively. Common wisdom says you’re not supposed to install early developer builds of iOS and iPadOS on your primary devices; I have to ignore that since work on my annual iOS and iPadOS reviews starts as soon as the WWDC keynote wraps up, which means I have to get my hands on the latest version of the iPhone and iPad operating systems as quickly as possible. As I explained on AppStories, putting together these reviews is some of the most challenging work I do all year, but it’s rewarding, I have fun with it, and it gives me a chance to optimize my writing setup on an annual basis.
The result of jumping on the beta bandwagon early is also that, at this point, having used iOS and iPadOS 15 daily for over three weeks, I have a pretty good sense of what’s going to be popular among regular users, which features power users are going to appreciate, and what aspects of the OSes still need some fine-tuning and tweaks from Apple. And with both iOS and iPadOS 15 graduating to public beta today1, I have some initial impressions and considerations to share. You could also see this story as advance work for this fall’s proper review, and you wouldn’t be mistaken: in this article, I’m going to focus on areas of iOS and iPadOS 15 that I’ll also cover more in depth later this year.
Let me cut to the chase: I don’t think iOS and iPadOS 15 are massive updates like iOS and iPadOS 13 or 14 were. There are dozens of interesting new features in both updates, but none of them feels “obvious” to demonstrate to average users like, say, dark mode and iPad multiwindow in iOS and iPadOS 13 or Home Screen widgets in last year’s iOS 14. And, for the most part, I think that’s fine. The wheel doesn’t have to be reinvented every year, and the pandemic happened for everyone – Apple engineers included.
In many ways, iOS and iPadOS 15 remind me of iOS 10 and 12: they’re updates that build upon the foundation set by their predecessors, bringing welcome consumer additions that, while not earth-shattering, contribute to making iOS more mature, intelligent, and deeply integrated with Apple’s ecosystem.
If you’re installing the iOS 15 public beta today and want to show it off to your friends, know this: Live Text in the Camera and custom Focus modes make for the best demos, followed by the new Weather app and rethought multitasking controls on iPad. SharePlay is neat but can feel already dated now that more countries are rolling out vaccinations and returning to a semi-regular social life; the new Safari needs more work; Mail is surprisingly unchanged despite the rise of remote work in the past year. That’s how I would describe iOS and iPadOS 15 in two sentences as of the first public beta released today.
Of course, however, I want to share a bit more about iOS and iPadOS 15 while I’m busy working on my annual review. So for this preview story, I’ve picked three areas of iOS and iPadOS 15 I’ve spent the most time testing and tinkering with over the past few weeks. This year, I’m including a ‘What I’d Like to See Improved’ sub-section for each of the areas I’m covering in this story. I thought it’d be fun to summarize my current criticisms and suggestions for each feature, and it should be interesting to revisit these in the fall when iOS and iPadOS 15 are released.
Currently, apps are limited to the amount of RAM they can use, regardless of the amount available on the device. For example, despite the highest-end M1 iPad Pro featuring 16GB of RAM, on iPadOS 14, apps are limited to only use 5GB. 16GB of RAM is the highest amount of RAM ever offered in an iPhone or iPad, and the 5GB limitation means that apps aren’t able to utilize even half of what the iPad Pro has to offer.
In the second betas of iOS and iPadOS 15, released to developers yesterday, Apple is introducing a new entitlement that developers may request that will expose their apps to more memory. Apple says that this entitlement will inform the system that an app “may perform better by exceeding the default app memory limit.” Apple’s developer documentation doesn’t specify how much extra RAM an app may be exposed to and also says this is limited to “supported devices.”
I’ve rarely found myself in a scenario where my iPad Pro needed more than 5 GB of RAM, but I’m also not a professional user of apps such as video or graphic editors that may take advantage of more RAM. This is an entitlement that Apple will need to grant developers who request it, and I’m curious to see how many apps will receive it later this year (or if this option will convince more developers of pro apps to finally bring them to iPad). I find it fascinating – but not surprising at all – that Apple is introducing this possibility while they’re pushing adoption of multiwindow and modern multitasking in iPadOS 15.
In iPadOS 14, if you hold down the Command key, you can see a list of app-specific features and their key equivalents. It’s like a quick-reference card for keyboard shortcuts. In iPadOS 15, it’s been expanded to become more like the iPad equivalent of the Mac menu bar—not only does it list keyboard shortcuts, but it can list every command in the app, and you can click any of them to execute them. iPad apps that build out the Mac menu bar for their Catalyst version can pick this feature up for free. It’s another way that the Mac and iPad are trading features and complementing one another.
Then there’s the Globe key. Hold it down in any app in iPadOS 15, and you’ll see a different set of commands, all of which can be applied globally. (Get it?) These menus are full of shortcuts to switch to the home screen (Globe-H), open a Quick Note (Globe-Q), activate Control Center (Globe-C), and pretty much any other system-level area.
I particularly like Snell’s suggestion regarding these new global keyboard shortcuts and the Shortcuts app in the future. As I explained on Connected this week, I’ve been using iPadOS 15 since the first beta came out at WWDC, and I’m still learning all kinds of new keyboard shortcuts that are now supported by the system. Impressively, the new Globe modifier has been associated with all sorts of system functions, including Siri and Control Center.
If you use a third-party hardware keyboard that doesn’t have a Globe key, you can always remap another one in Settings ⇾ General ⇾ Keyboard ⇾ Hardware Keyboard ⇾ Modifier Keys. And while the keyboard shortcuts menu can be dismissed by holding the Globe key (or ⌘, for app-specific commands) again or clicking outside of it, you can also press the ⌘. shortcut (which is the equivalent of an Escape button on iPadOS) to instantly close it. Lastly, you can start typing while the menu is shown to quickly filter commands by name.
Earlier today, Apple officially opened their new flagship retail store in Rome, Italy. Located on the popular Via del Corso street in the city’s historical center, the new store – which we previously covered here – is located in the historic Palazzo Marignoli, a 19th century building that has been renovated by Apple and painstakingly restored to its former glory.
I, along with our designer and photographer Silvia Gatta, was able to visit the Via del Corso store yesterday ahead of its grand opening to the public. Coincidentally, the occasion also marked the first time Silvia and I were able to visit the center of Rome free of red-zone restrictions since October 2019, when we took an amazing tour of Rome to demonstrate the iPhone 11’s camera capabilities before the pandemic hit our country in early 2020.
Besides the underlying sense of euphoria for seeing the Spanish Steps again and being around tourists for the first time in nearly 18 months, we came away impressed with what Apple has accomplished with its new Rome retail store. The Via del Corso store is an outstanding exercise in blending Rome’s rich architectural history with the modern reality of Apple’s computers and wearable devices – a challenge that the company didn’t take upon lightly, and which has, in fact, shaped the overall identity of the Via del Corso store.
In recent years, the narrative surrounding the iPad platform, and particularly its more advanced Pro line, has largely focused on the great divide between the iPad’s hardware and software. It’s a story we’ve had to grapple with for a while now: it was clear with the original iPad Pro in 2015 that its software – still called iOS at the time – needed to take better advantage of the 12.9” display, but we had to wait until 2017’s iOS 11 to receive drag and drop between apps; similarly, the iPad Pro was redesigned in late 2018 with the Liquid Retina Display and a gesture-based interaction system, but it was only in 2019 that Apple relaunched the iPad’s software as a standalone platform parallel to iOS but optimized for iPad.
The perception since the iPad Pro’s introduction is that its hardware has consistently leapfrogged its software, leaving many to wonder about the untapped potential of iPadOS and a third-party app ecosystem that could have been vastly richer and more powerful if only iPadOS allowed developers to write more complex apps. Effectively, “too good for its software” has long been the iPad Pro’s hardware mantra.
The 2021 iPad Pro, launching publicly this Friday, doesn’t alter that public perception at all. If anything, this new iPad Pro, which I’ve been testing in the high-end 12.9” flavor with 2 TB of storage for the past week, only widens the chasm between its hardware and software: it’s an absolute marvel of engineering featuring the Apple-designed M1 chip, a brand new Liquid Retina XDR display, and 16 GB of RAM1 that hints at a powerful, exciting future for its software that just isn’t here yet.
I say this as someone who’s been using the iPad as his main computer for nearly a decade at this point: from a mere hardware standpoint, the new iPad Pro is everything I could have possibly dreamed of this year, but it leaves me wanting for so many other iPadOS features I’d love to see Apple address at its developer conference next month.
The new 12.9” iPad Pro hits all the right notes as a modular computer that can be a tablet with an amazing display, a powerful laptop, and an extensible workstation; its hardware is a remarkable blend of tablet-first features and technologies first seen on Apple’s line of desktop computers. It’s hard to believe the company was able to deliver all of it in a device that is only 6.4mm thin. However, the new iPad Pro’s more powerful nature doesn’t fundamentally change my daily workflow. At least not with its current version of iPadOS that will (likely) be obsolete in two weeks.