Federico Viticci

9458 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, 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.

He can also be found on his two other podcasts on Relay FM – Connected and Remaster.

Mastodon: @viticci@macstories.net

| Instagram: @viticci |

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Six Colors’ ‘Apple in 2022’ Report Card

For the past eight years, Six Colors’ Jason Snell has put together an ‘Apple report card’ – a survey that aims to assess the current state of Apple “as seen through the eyes of writers, editors, developers, podcasters, and other people who spend an awful lot of time thinking about Apple”.

The 2022 version of the Six Colors Apple Report Card was published yesterday, and you can find an excellent summary of all the submitted comments along with charts featuring average scores for different categories here.

Once again, I’m happy Jason invited me to share some thoughts and comments on what Apple did in 2022. MacStories readers know that last year didn’t exactly go as planned. While iOS 16 delivered a meaningful update to the Lock Screen for people who care about customization and the iPhone 14 Pro came with substantial improvements to the display and camera tech, the iPad story was disappointing and confusing. This is reflected in my answers to Jason’s survey, and it’ll be a recurring topic on MacStories in 2023. At the same time, I was also impressed by Apple’s performance on services, concerned by the evolution of the Shortcuts app, and cautious about the company’s newfound approach to HomeKit.

I’ve prepared the full text of my answers to the Six Colors report card, which you can find below. I recommend reading the whole thing on Six Colors to get the broader context of all the participants in the survey.

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macOS Isn’t as Small as You Think

Interesting comparison of macOS and iPadOS interface elements by Matt Birchler:

I will say that there are certainly some macOS UI elements that could be tricky to use with touch, but I think they’re the exception, not the rule. Still, Apple will certainly make some UI changes to accommodate touch as an officially-supported input method on the platform.

And:

There’s a narrative out there that touch is just so incompatible with macOS and that in order to make it work, the macOS UI would have to get blown up to comical proportions, but I don’t think that’s the case. Changes will be made, but I think macOS is more touch-friendly today than many people give it credit for.

I don’t disagree, and count me among those who think Apple should consider bringing touch support to the Mac.

I’ve seen this argument regarding the concern of “blowing up” the macOS UI in recent years too, and I think it’s shortsighted. Look no further than the iPad Pro: in a single device, Apple was able to let touch, pointer, and now even hover interactions coexist. Even without display scaling, I don’t think iPadOS has a comically large interface, as some believe.

There is a lot of work to be done to achieve a similar kind of input balance on macOS (think of all the elements that haven’t been redesigned in recent years, like drag controls for windows; the list is long), but it is possible, and I hope Apple gets there in the near future.

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The Practicality of Art in Software

I’ve been following with great interest this series of articles by John Gruber (and Matt Birchler’s related story) about the chasm between iOS and Android apps. I have some thoughts since expanding my app knowledge beyond iOS and iPadOS is one of my goals for 2023.

About a month ago, during my holiday break, I purchased a Google Pixel 7 as a way to re-familiarize myself with Android.1 To say that I found the ecosystem worse than I remembered would be an understatement. It’s not just about the fact that – as Gruber and Birchler noted – most Android apps suck compared to their iOS counterparts; it’s that the entire OS lacks cohesiveness.

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Unread 3.3

Saving an article from Unread to Readwise Reader.

Saving an article from Unread to Readwise Reader.

Unread, the elegant RSS reader by Golden Hill Software that we’ve covered before on MacStories, received its 3.3 update today, and it’s an interesting one I’ve been playing around with for the past week. There are two features I want to mention.

The first one is the ability to set up an article action to instantly send a headline from the article list in the app to Readwise Reader. As I explained on AppStories, I decided to go all-in with Reader as my read-later app (at least for now), and this Unread integration makes it incredibly easy to save articles for later. Sure, the Readwise Reader extension in the share sheet is one of the best ones I’ve seen for a read-later app (you can triage and tag articles directly from the share sheet), but if you’re in a hurry and checking out headlines on your phone, the one-tap custom action in Unread is phenomenal. To start using it, you need to be an Unread subscriber and paste in your Readwise API token.

The second feature is the ability to save any webpage from Safari as an article in Unread, even if you’re not subscribed to that website’s RSS feed. Essentially, this is a way to turn Unread into a quasi-read-later tool: the app’s parser will extract text and images from the webpage, which will be then be saved as a ‘Saved Article’ in Unread Cloud, Local feeds, or NewsBlur, or as a ‘Page’ in Feedbin.

If you’re a new Readwise Reader user, I recommend checking out Unread 3.3, which is available on the App Store for iPhone and iPad.

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Ivory for Mastodon Review: Tapbots Reborn

Ivory for Mastodon.

Ivory for Mastodon.

There’s an intangible, permeating quality about Tapbots apps that transcends features and specs: craftsmanship. With Ivory, launching today on the App Store for iPhone and iPad, you can instantly appreciate that level of care and refinement that the Texas-based duo is well known for after more than a decade on the App Store. But there’s something else, too: for the first time in a few years, it feels like Mark and Paul are having fun again.

Ivory is a Mastodon client, and it’s tricky to evaluate it right now because its version 1.0 is launching under extraordinary circumstances.

As we’ve documented on MacStories, Twitter’s idiotic new “leadership” recently decided to unceremoniously and crassly put an end to third-party clients such as Tweetbot with no warning, which forced Tapbots to scramble and figure out a solution on how to discontinue Tweetbot while dealing with subscription renewals while also accelerating the timeline for the launch of Ivory, which they’d been working on for months. I’ve been following the development of Ivory very closely (I’ve been using the app as my main Mastodon client since its first alpha in late November), and I know that the Ivory 1.0 launching today isn’t the debut version Mark and Paul were envisioning. By Tapbots’ own admission, there’s still a lot of work to do on Ivory, but given how the Twitter situation evolved, they had to ship something. There is already a roadmap on Tapbots’ website for Ivory, if you’re curious to know what the developers are planning for the foreseeable future.

As I was saying above, however, there’s something else about Ivory that, in many ways, makes today’s release an important milestone in our community worth documenting and celebrating. Ever since we at MacStories decided to abandon Twitter, we’ve gone all-in on Mastodon and, broadly speaking, we want to embrace the idea of decentralized and federated social media. Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen hundreds of other people I used to follow on Twitter do the same. I believe we’re witnessing the beginning of a new social networking era, and even though Mastodon has been around for a few years, many of us (myself included) are only realizing now that we should have paid attention to this kind of technology years ago.

For the second time since I started MacStories in 2009, I can observe developers imagining what interfaces for reading and posting status updates on the web should look like. New conventions are being created as we speak, and we are, once again, witnessing the rise of a vibrant ecosystem of third-party apps designed for different needs, platforms, and people. Only, this time, there is no single company that controls the fate of all this.

So that’s the something that makes the release of Ivory a special one in the Apple community. More than a reactionary “what if Tweetbot, but for Mastodon” move, Ivory marks a new beginning for Tapbots in a way that Netbot never was. (If you know, you know.) We’re living in new and exciting times for indie apps, and I think that you can feel it when the creator of an app feels the same way. Ivory exudes enthusiasm. Even though it’s not the most feature-rich client I’m testing right now, it’s the one I’m constantly drawn towards. Ivory is going to establish a baseline for quality and polish on iOS and iPadOS; it’s the app future Mastodon clients for iPhone and iPad (and, hopefully soon, Mac) will have to measure up against.

Ivory is the start of a new chapter for one of the most beloved indie studios in our community. So let’s take a look.

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Hands-On with Apple Music for Windows

Apple Music for Windows.

Apple Music for Windows.

Last week, Apple released native versions of Apple Music, Apple TV, and Apple Devices for Windows. The apps, which are available on the Microsoft Store, are labeled as “previews”, and they’re meant to eventually serve as replacements for iTunes for Windows, which is the only flavor of iTunes Apple still distributes after they transitioned to standalone media apps a few years ago. I suppose the apps are also part of a broader strategy from Apple to establish a stronger presence of their services on Windows, as we saw last year with the launch of Apple Music on Xbox and iCloud Photos on Windows (which joined the existing iCloud configuration panel for Windows devices).

As an Apple Music subscriber and owner of a Windows gaming laptop, I thought it’d be fun to take Apple Music for a spin and see how it compares to Spotify on Windows as well as the existing Apple Music experience for Apple’s platforms, which I know very well and enjoy on a daily basis.

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MKBHD on Apple’s Processing Techniques for iPhone Photos

In his latest video, MKBHD eloquently summarized and explained something that I’ve personally felt for the past few years: pictures taken on modern iPhones often look sort-of washed out and samey, like much of the contrast and highlights from real life were lost somewhere along the way during HDR processing, Deep Fusion, or whatever Apple is calling their photography engine these days. From the video (which I’m embedding below), in the part where Marques notes how the iPhone completely ignored a light source that was pointing at one side of his face:

Look at how they completely removed the shadow from half of my face. I am clearly being lit from a source that’s to the side of me, and that’s part of reality. But in the iPhone’s reality you cannot tell, at least from my face, where the light is coming from. Every once in a while you get weird stuff like this, and it all comes back to the fact that it’s software making choices.

That’s precisely the issue here. The iPhone’s camera hardware is outstanding, but how iOS interprets and remixes the data it gets fed from the camera often leads to results that I find…boring and uninspired unless I manually touch them up with edits and effects. I like how Brendon Bigley put it:

Over time though, it’s become more and more evident that the software side of iOS has been mangling what should be great images taken with a great sensor and superbly crafted lenses. To be clear: The RAW files produced by this system in apps like Halide are stunning. But there’s something lost in translation when it comes to the stock Camera app and the ways in which it handles images from every day use.

Don’t miss the comparison shots between the Pixel 7 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro in MKBHD’s video. As an experiment for the next few weeks, I’m going to try what Brendon suggested and use the Rich Contrast photographic style on my iPhone 14 Pro Max.

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iPadOS 16.2 and Stage Manager for External Displays: Work in Progress, But Worth the Wait

Stage Manager in iPadOS 16.2.

Stage Manager in iPadOS 16.2.

Ever since I last wrote about iPadOS 16, I have continued using Stage Manager on my iPad Pro. As I wrote in October, I like the idea behind Stage Manager more than its implementation. Despite the flawed design of its multitasking concepts and bugs I still encounter on a daily basis, it’s undeniable that Stage Manager lets me get more things done on my iPad by virtue of its concurrent app windows.

With today’s release of iPadOS 16.2, the idea behind Stage Manager achieves the full vision first presented in June, while its design and technical implementation remain stuck in an unpolished, half-baked state. Which is to say: conceptually, I love that Stage Manager in iPadOS 16.2 allows me to extend my iPad to an external display and put four additional windows on it; I’ve waited years for this feature, and it’s finally here. Technically speaking, however, the performance of this mode leaves a lot to be desired, with frequent crashes on my iPad Pro and an oft-confusing design that, I will reiterate, needs a rethinking.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve learned to live with Stage Manager, accept its quirks, and use what’s good about it to my advantage. As I recently wrote for Club MacStories members, I’ve put my money where my mouth is: I’ve gone all-in with Stage Manager on my iPad Pro and completely rebuilt my work setup around the M2 iPad Pro and Apple Studio Display, using Universal Control to seamlessly control iPadOS from a nearby Mac mini. (You can read the full story here.) After all, no other device in Apple’s ecosystem can effortlessly turn from a tablet into a laptop and into a desktop workstation like the iPad Pro can.

I’ve been working toward this vision for iPad modularity and contextual computing for the past several years. So now that Stage Manager has unlocked the final piece of the puzzle with external display integration, how good is it in practice?

And more importantly: was it worth the wait?

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Last.fm Turns 20 – and People Are Still Scrobbling

I enjoyed this story about Last.fm’s 20th (!) anniversary by Jacob Kastrenakes, writing for The Verge:

I was a little surprised to see that Last.fm was still around when I first started writing this story, let alone that it had new communities flourishing around its data. (The company didn’t respond to a request for an interview.) But I suppose in a world where most services close off and hide your data, there’ll always be people looking for a way to track it and analyze it themselves. And in exchange, they get the joy of arguing about music stats every day — and not just once a year when Wrapped comes out.

My co-hosts on Connected like to make fun of me for being One of Those People Who Still Scrobbles, but I can honestly say it’s one of the best things I’ve done for my music consumption in the past few years. (That, plus having an offline library with albums I own that I can enjoy with my favorite headphones and amp – which I also scrobble via Roon.) Ever since I started scrobbling again last year thanks to Marvis Pro on iPhone and iPad (and NepTunes on the Mac), I’ve been able to enjoy some fascinating monthly and annual breakdowns of my music listening habits that go much more in depth than Apple Music or Spotify would ever want to.

An example of a monthly Last.fm report.

An example of a monthly Last.fm report.

In Internet years, it’s pretty wild for anything to turn 20 – let alone a service that faces competition from the likes of Apple and Spotify. And yet Last.fm has been able to carve a niche for itself by appealing to people like me, who want to know more about the music they listen to. Maybe it’s a weird thing to say in 2022, but if you listen to a lot of music every day, I can’t recommend dusting off your old Last.fm account enough.

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