Federico Viticci

8408 posts on MacStories since April 2009

Federico is the founder and editor-in-chief of MacStories, where he writes about Apple with a focus on apps, developers, and mobile software. He can also be found on his two podcasts – Connected and Virtual.

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Piezo Exits the Mac App Store

Rogue Amoeba's Paul Kafasis, writing on the latest version of their audio recording app, Piezo, and their decision to exit the Mac App Store:

A major reason for the initial creation of Piezo was our desire to allow recording from other applications on the Mac within the limits of what Apple’s Mac App Store rules allowed. We were pleased to provide audio capture to customers of the Mac App Store, and for a time, things worked just fine. However, Apple eventually changed the rules, requiring that all applications distributed through the Mac App Store be sandboxed. This was a problem. Piezo’s need to capture audio from other applications precludes the possibility of it being sandboxed. This new requirement effectively stopped our ability to upgrade Piezo in any meaningful way.

[…]

We’d like to provide customers with the option of buying Piezo through the Mac App Store, but it’s more important to us that we provide a quality product with full functionality. In the case of Piezo, that now means exclusively distributing the application via our site. Users have always had the option of downloading and buying Piezo direct, so this didn’t involve much in the way of additional work. The biggest issue was simply choosing to remove Piezo from the Mac App Store. Ultimately, we feel the decision was made for us by both technical and bureaucratic factors outside of our control.

It says a lot about the Mac App Store that, whenever another app exits it, our reaction isn't "why" but "of course".

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Watch Apps Worth Making

David Smith:

What doesn’t work is easiest to say. Apps that try to re-create the functionality of an iPhone app simply don’t work. If you can perform a particular operation on an iPhone, then it is better to do it there. The promise of never having to take your iPhone out of your pocket just isn’t quite here yet. The Apple Watch may advance (in hardware and software) to a point where this is no longer true but the platform has a ways to grow first.

There seems to be only three kinds of apps that make sense given the current hardware and software on the Apple Watch.

Bingo. As I tweeted yesterday, my favorite Watch apps aren't trying to mimic iPhone apps at all. If the same task can be completed on the iPhone, I don't see why I would try on a smaller, slower device.

The best Watch apps will be the ones that wouldn't be possible or make sense on an iPhone.

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The Verge: ‘The Age of Indie Fitness Apps Is Over’

A sad but true post by Lauren Goode at The Verge:

What do Endomondo, MyFitnessPal, MapMyFitness, Runtastic, FitStar, and RunKeeper all have in common?

Aside from all being smartphone apps that track your health and activity, all of these apps have been acquired by bigger companies — bigger brands — over the past couple of years, the latest being RunKeeper, which was just bought by running shoe maker Asics. Endomondo, MyFitnessPal, and MapMyFitness went to Under Armour. Runtastic was acquired by Adidas. FitStar was bought by Fitbit, which at the time wasn’t yet a public company, but in its own right has swelled to become the market leader for activity trackers.

Large companies operating at scale with free services and lots of users who don't bother to pay for extras? It's photo management, all over again.

If history does repeat itself, we'll continue to see, as Goode argues, consolidation of independent services being acquired by bigger brands. The good news: smaller, more focused health and fitness utilities seem to have a profitable niche in which they can thrive, while still retaining the ability to save data into HealthKit. I appreciate how Apple's Health puts everyone on the same playing field – from brands to solo developers (the real indies in this case) like David Smith.

At which point, though, do we expect Apple and Google to make their own all-encompassing fitness and meal tracking apps for smartphones? Apple may be pushing the Watch as their premier fitness device, but they know how much people use their phones for these tasks, and a future Sherlocking wouldn't surprise me at all. Just like it happened with photos.

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Slack Adds Support for iOS Document Providers, New Emoji Picker

Slack's new file uploads.

Slack's new file uploads.

I've been using Slack every day for a couple of years, and especially after we upgraded to a paid team account last August, we've completely cut email from our internal communications (in addition to other features). One missing functionality that always annoyed me was the inability to natively attach files to conversations on iOS – Slack could either upload photos and videos from your library or preview links to files, but it couldn't upload documents from other iOS apps.

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Apple Music and Sonos Launch Collaborative Ad Campaign

Following the launch of Apple Music on Sonos earlier this week, the companies have launched an ad campaign to highlight the benefits of music in daily lives. Mikey Campbell, reporting for AppleInsider:

The marketing effort — dubbed "Music Makes it Home" — draws on statistics from a wide-ranging, multi-country Sonos study of 30,000 families that found positive correlations in listening to music and overall quality of life. As UK publication Marketing reports, the survey discovered music benefits sexual activity, relationship satisfaction, mood, happiness and other metrics.

To present the data in easily digestible TV spots and social media posts, the companies invited 30 families to take part in a social experiment that restricted each of the 109 participants from listening to music in the house for one week. After the prescribed deprivation period, music was reintroduced courtesy of Apple Music playing on a wireless Sonos system. Along with families in eight countries, celebrities St Vincent, Run the Jewels' Killer Mike and The National's Matt Berninger also took part in the study.

Interestingly, iPhones, Apple Watches, motion-activated cameras, and iBeacons were used to gather a variety of data during the experiment. Apple and Sonos have also launched a Tumblr blog with a collection of photos and descriptions of the families involved. A full breakdown of numbers and recorded stats is available here.

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Sleep++ 2.0 Brings Improved Sleep Analysis to Apple Watch App

I've previously noted how, almost a year into the Apple Watch, I haven't found myself depending on any particular Watch app. I mostly use my Apple Watch for basic features such as notifications and timers, and I like wearing it because it looks nice. All the productivity or utility apps I've tried are either too slow, too complex for a tiny screen, or they don't launch at all because of watchOS performance issues.

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Twitter’s Algorithmic Timeline Option

Following a BuzzFeed report from last week, Twitter has announced today a new option to view a summary of relevant tweets on top of the regular timeline. Unlike the traditional reverse chronological order of the timeline, tweets will be reordered algorithmically in this view, which Twitter describes as a way to not miss "the best tweets".

You follow hundreds of people on Twitter — maybe thousands — and when you open Twitter, it can feel like you've missed some of their most important Tweets. Today, we're excited to share a new timeline feature that helps you catch up on the best Tweets from people you follow.

Here's how it works. You flip on the feature in your settings; then when you open Twitter after being away for a while, the Tweets you're most likely to care about will appear at the top of your timeline – still recent and in reverse chronological order. The rest of the Tweets will be displayed right underneath, also in reverse chronological order, as always. At any point, just pull-to-refresh to see all new Tweets at the top in the live, up-to-the-second experience you already know and love.

For now, the feature will be opt-in, meaning you'll have to visit the Settings of the Twitter app and, if available, you'll be able to turn on the option. "In the coming weeks", the feature will become opt-out (it'll be on by default) but you'll still be able to turn it off from the Settings.

Put it another way: for now, only die-hard Twitter users will check out the new timeline option (and complain about it). In the future, most Twitter users will end up with an algorithmic summary of tweets at the top of their timeline and they won't bother to turn it off.

I'm not particularly opposed to the idea of an algorithmic addition to the standard Twitter timeline. In fact, Twitter has been testing one for several months now, and it's one of my favorite touches in the app:

From Twitter's description, it sounds like the new algorithmic option is an expansion of the 'While you were away...' recap. I've found plenty of value in these summaries: especially after I've been away for a few hours, they come in handy to see a collection of interesting tweets that don't necessarily contain links (and that therefore can't be monitored by Nuzzel).

I don't want the traditional Twitter timeline to be supplanted by a completely algorithmic feed, but I'm also in favor of testing new tools to help people use Twitter more and more easily. As I wrote before, the majority of Twitter users don't spend hours carefully scrolling their timeline to read every single tweet; a summary is an obvious idea to show them interesting content they may have not seen.

Right now, I don't have access to the timeline option yet, but it should be rolling out soon. It's too bad that this option won't likely be exposed to third-party clients via the Twitter API, but, alas, I'm not surprised by that anymore.


Apple Music Launching on Sonos Tomorrow – Some Beta Impressions

With a press release, Sonos announced today that Apple Music integration, first released as beta late last year, will be available publicly tomorrow, February 10:

Sonos announced today that Apple Music will be available on Sonos systems worldwide starting Wednesday, Feb. 10. Music fans worldwide will have access to Apple Music features like For You, New, Radio, and My Music, and will also be able to stream the entire Apple Music catalog through Sonos smart speakers tuned for great sound in every room of their homes.

Apple Music on Sonos was tested by hundreds of thousands of listeners through a successful beta program that started in early December. To stream Apple Music on Sonos, customers simply select "Add Music Services" from any Sonos controller app, scroll down to the Apple Music icon, and login.

"The feedback from Apple Music members on Sonos during the beta period has been great," said Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. "Sonos plus Apple Music provides an amazing listening experience at home – and we're excited to offer it to all Sonos customers starting tomorrow."

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Connected: This Feels Like Therapy to Me

This week, Federico and Stephen discuss the culture surrounding app updates and answer some listener questions.

On this week's Connected, we discussed a topic that's been in the back of my mind for years: how do we approach apps that aren't going to be updated often? What do we look for in an app when it comes to future feature additions? And how can developers understand their audience and plan updates on the increasingly competitive App Store? It's a good one. You can listen here.

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