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.
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.
Chaim Gartenberg, writing for The Verge, on one of Shortcuts’ most annoying limitations in iOS 14 – its obsession for showing notifications for anything it does:
Apple, I assume, mandates notifications because Shortcuts are extremely powerful tools for automating things on your iPhone, and it’s easy to imagine unscrupulous use of them.
But the thing is, the power of Shortcuts is to automate things in the background that I don’t want to have to deal with, whether that’s automatically disabling rotation lock when I open or close an app, open an app with a custom icon, or change the wallpaper when the battery life is low. A big glaring notification every time I do something detracts from that idea. I want my phone to be quietly helpful, not shouting in my face every time it does what I asked it to.
Years ago in my review of iOS and iPadOS 13, I argued in favor of adding an “expert mode” to Shortcuts so power users could turn off confirmation prompts for automations (which Apple removed the following year) and other notifications. Two years later, I think this goes well beyond expert users.
Since the release of iOS 14, millions of people have turned to Shortcuts as a way to customize app icons on their Home Screens. And every time they tap one of those custom icons, they have to see an alert that tells them the action they just performed was, in fact, performed. Imagine if your Mac showed you an alert every time you opened an app saying ‘You opened an app’. That’s pretty much what Shortcuts does whenever you run an automation or a shortcut added to the Home Screen.
Given the popularity of custom icons powered by Shortcuts in iOS 14 and the universal disdain for its notifications, I would be very surprised if there’s no way to turn these off in iOS 15.
As announced by Spotify earlier today, the company is rolling out a redesigned ‘Your Library’ page in its iOS and Android apps that should make it easier to browse your music collection and podcast episodes with a new grid view, better filters and sorting options, and more. From the Spotify Newsroom:
Your collection of music and podcasts is a representation of you—and it’s something deeply personal. But with 5,000+ hours of content released globally every day on Spotify and hundreds of those saved in Your Library, we know it’s crucial to be able to quickly find what you’re looking for, jump back into your latest discovery, or rediscover a beloved track you saved years ago.
Starting today, we are rolling out a new version of Your Library to all Spotify mobile users. Now, you’ll have a more streamlined way to easily explore your collection and find your saved music and podcasts faster. Your Library’s updated design and added features will enable you to spend less time looking for content and organizing your collection, and more time rediscovering the music and podcasts you’ve loved over the years. And as always, keep adding even more content for a library that grows alongside you into the future.
I’m particularly intrigued by grid view and the new filters to switch between music and podcasts. I’m also curious to see if this new design applies to the iPad app (which continues to pale in comparison to Apple Music’s solid iPad client) or not.
Version 14.5 is the biggest – or, at the very least, most interesting – update to iOS and iPadOS we’ve seen in the 14.0 release cycle to date. That’s not to say previous iterations of iOS and iPadOS 14 were low on new features and refinements – it’s quite the opposite, in fact. Perhaps the pandemic and Apple’s work-from-home setup played a role in the company spreading new iOS functionalities across multiple releases throughout 2020 and the first half of 2021, but, regardless of the underlying reason, iOS and iPadOS 14 have evolved considerably since their public launch six months ago.
With iOS 14.2, Apple shipped the traditional “emoji update”, but was also able to include a redesigned AirPlay interface, face detection in AR, and a brand new Shazam integration in Control Center; with iOS 14.3, the company rolled out its new ProRAW photography API alongside support for the Fitness+ service, App Clip codes, and the ability to launch apps directly from Home Screen shortcuts; version 14.4, released earlier this year, saw the arrival of proximity-based music handoff for iPhone and HomePod mini alongside new options for Bluetooth settings and other performance improvements.
It’s difficult to tell whether some of these features were originally planned for a September release and got delayed because of the pandemic1, or how many of these are Apple’s response to user feedback following the release of iOS and iPadOS 14, but one thing’s for sure: Apple hasn’t stood still over the past few months, and today’s iOS and iPadOS 14.5 are continuing the trend of major iOS and iPadOS updates released ahead of WWDC.
Jason Snell, writing for Macworld about the new iPad Pro’s software limitations compared to its powerful hardware:
With the announcement of USB 4/Thunderbolt support on these new iPad Pro models, I’m thrown back to the past. In 2018, when Apple released the first iPad Pro with a USB-C port on the bottom, it didn’t update the software to read the entire contents of a thumb drive when you plugged it in. The hardware was willing, but the software was weak.
And here we are again. Thunderbolt adds even speedier connectivity, but for what? Faster photo and video imports? Okay, though once again, I’m reminded that Apple’s bread-and-butter pro media apps won’t run on these iPads.
Thunderbolt is great, but it’s difficult to take full advantage of it.
How about external display support? The new iPad Pros can drive even larger external displays, including Apple’s Pro Display XDR. Third-party video apps can take advantage of this to display high-resolution video and even some analytical displays. Which is great, but if you want to display the iPad interface itself, it’ll just be a pillarboxed mirror of what’s on the iPad’s own screen.
Apple events are always packed with little details that don’t make it into the main presentation or are easy to miss in the flurry of announcements. Some tidbits are buried in footnotes, while others are tucked into word clouds on Keynote slides or in release notes. Today’s event was no exception, so after having a chance to dig in a little deeper, here is an assortment of details about what Apple announced.
Note: you can also check out our standalone overviews for the new iPad Pro, iMac, Apple TV, and AirTags with more details about each product.
Microsoft’s and Apple’s bets on downloadable subscription services would seemingly place them behind their streaming counterparts in the long run, but that’s not quite the case. Their success shows that they’re neither ahead of the curve nor behind it; they’re simply meeting the expectations of their players. Apple debuted 30 games on Friday on a service that costs $4.99 a month and is often included in larger Apple product purchases for free. Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass Ultimate tier costs $14.99 a month and includes games on Xbox console, Windows PC, and Android devices — and will now regularly feature launch-day releases from Xbox Game Studios, Bethesda Softworks, and even Sony, along with a rotating collection of more than 100 catalog titles. They’re providing the best deals in gaming at this moment.