Federico Viticci

8705 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 three podcasts – Connected, Canvas, and Remaster.


Stress-Testing iPhone 7 Plus’ Portrait Mode

Brian L.W. Moore on iOS 10.1's Portrait mode:

While a lot is super good, there are a couple areas where the Portrait Mode just ain’t gonna cut it. Complicated foreground and background combinations seemingly overwhelm it and the blur edges get confused throughout the photo.

Portrait Mode doesn’t even begin to successfully work with translucent or shiny objects. Though this is pretty understandable considering the hardware — attempting to detect depth on objects like these is probably difficult. Not sure if Apple will ever be able to get over this one unless their machine learning becomes near-perfect.

He concludes:

People have asked me what camera I used to take these photos, which is I’d call a good sign. I like how they look, and this is a camera I can keep in my pocket all day as I walk all over a beautiful country. That’s a win for me.

Check out his examples here and here. They're not technically perfect, but I think they're beautiful, and they were made on a portable computer. Impressive.


Remaster, Episode 21: The Nintendo Switch

After months of speculation, Nintendo's next big console has been unveiled and named. This week on Remaster, we discuss whether the Nintendo Switch is shaping up to be what we always wanted.

On the latest episode of Remaster, we talked about our first impressions of the Nintendo Switch and what a hybrid console means for the future of Nintendo games. You can listen here.


MKBHD Compares Siri and Google Assistant

This is a good video by Marques Brownlee on where things stand today between Siri (iOS 10) and the Google Assistant (running Android Nougat on a Google Pixel XL). Three takeaways: Google Assistant is more chatty than old Google Voice Search; Google still seems to have an edge over Siri when it comes to follow-up questions based on topic inference (which Siri also does, but not as well); and, Siri holds up well in most types of questions asked by Brownlee.

In my daily experience, however, Siri still falls short of basic tasks too often (two examples) and deals with questions inconsistently. There is also, I believe, a perception problem with Siri in that Apple fixes obvious Siri shortcomings too slowly or simply isn't prepared for new types of questions – such as asking how the last presidential debate went. In addition, being able to text with Google Assistant in Allo for iOS has reinforced a longstanding wish of mine – the ability to converse silently with a digital assistant. I hope Siri gets some kind of textual mode or iMessage integration in iOS 11.

One note on Brownlee's video: the reason Siri isn't as conversational as Google Assistant is due to the way Brownlee activates Siri. When invoked with the Home button (or by tapping the microphone icon), Siri assumes the user is looking at the screen and provides fewer audio cues, prioritizing visual feedback instead. If Brownlee had opened Siri using "Hey Siri" hands-free activation, Siri would have likely been just as conversational as Google. I prefer Apple's approach here – if I'm holding a phone, it means I can look at the UI, and there's no need to speak detailed results aloud.


Gboard Adds 3D Touch Cursor Movement, Contacts Integration

Google released a nice update to their iOS keyboard, Gboard, earlier today.

Cursor control can now be activated with 3D Touch, which is consistent with the behavior of Apple's keyboard. Gboard can't move the cursor freely on the screen like the system keyboard, though, which makes it more limited when it comes to swiping across multiple lines of text. Also, Google didn't implement haptic feedback when switching between contextual keyboard menus (such as holding down on the dash key), which is another detail that I appreciate in Apple's keyboard on the iPhone 7.

Similarly, Gboard now features Contacts integration to look up a person's contact card directly from the keyboard – but it's not as tightly integrated as QuickType suggestions in iOS 10. However, I prefer the presentation of contact cards in Gboard and I think Google's is a sweet solution as well.

Gboard is shaping up nicely, but I continue to wish Google paid more attention to the iPad layout and built true multilingual support for international users.


Connected, Episode 113: Here is Smart Phone

This week, Myke goes to the Apple Store, the group reads Pixel reviews and Federico brings back Weekly Picks.

A fun episode of Connected this week, with a brief discussion of Google's new Pixel phone and the return of weekly app picks. You can listen here.

Sponsored by:


Daylite: A Business Productivity App for Mac and iOS [Sponsor]

Daylite is a business productivity app for Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

Organize you and your team’s contacts, calendars, projects, tasks, emails, notes, and new business opportunities all in one app.

Track sales and set reminders for follow-ups. See a full history of all emails, calls, and notes for each customer. Customize your own pipelines to track sales and projects. View your whole team’s calendar to make scheduling meetings simple. Daylite even integrates with Apple Mail so you can update customer info, set tasks and reminders, and add appointments to your calendar – all without leaving Mail.

Automate lead generation from online web forms with Daylite & Zapier integration. When someone fills out a form on your website through Google Forms or Wufoo, a new contact and business opportunity are creating in Daylite. You can then segment leads for specific email campaigns and track all of your communication with them in Daylite.

Always have your business info no matter where you go. Daylite is a native app so you can access your information on your Mac, iPhone, or iPad even when you don’t have an Internet connection.

Read how businesses all over the world are becoming more efficient with Daylite.

Our thanks to Daylite for sponsoring MacStories this week.

Siri and the Suspension of Disbelief

Julian Lepinski has a thoughtful response to last week's story by Walt Mossberg on Siri's failures and inconsistencies. In particular, about the way Siri handles failed queries:

Apple’s high-level goal here should be to include responses that increase your faith in Siri’s ability to parse and respond to your question, even when that isn’t immediately possible. Google Search accomplishes this by explaining what they’re showing you, and asking you questions like “_Did you mean ‘when is the debate’?_” when they think you’ve made an error. Beyond increasing your trust in Siri, including questions like this in the responses would also generate a torrent of incredible data to help Apple tune the responses that Siri gives.

Apple has a bias towards failing silently when errors occur, which can be effective when the error rate is low. With Siri, however, this error rate is still quite high and the approach is far less appropriate. When Siri fails, there’s no path to success short of restarting and trying again (the brute force approach).

The comparison between conversational assistants and iOS' original user interface feels particularly apt. It'd be helpful to know what else to try when Siri doesn't understand a question.


Remaster, Episode 20: The PlayStation VR Review

The PlayStation VR is finally out. Federico, Myke, and Shahid share their views on the hardware, the experience, and the launch lineup.

Sony's PlayStation VR platform launched earlier this week, and we've been playing with several launch titles for the past few days. On the latest Remaster, we discuss our impressions of the hardware, the gaming experience, and its future potential. You can listen here.

Sponsored by: