Federico Viticci

8788 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.

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Nintendo Switch Parental Controls App Coming to iOS

Speaking of the Nintendo Switch, the company posted a video earlier today showcasing the functionalities of an upcoming Nintendo Switch Parental Controls app for iPhone, which will allow parents to monitor usage of the Switch console directly from iOS.

Sam Machkovech, writing for Ars Technica, describes how the app will work:

Parents who use the app will be able to remotely monitor the full log-in and gameplay record of any child account, showing game starts, durations of play, and which games kids play. App users can also enforce gameplay time limits, and the video shows a per-day "screen time" allowance. This defaults as a baseline time-per-day rule, though parents can also choose a more granular number of hours on specific days (including a suggestion that perhaps kids get to play the Switch more on weekends).

Should a kid go over his or her allotted time, the app gives parents two options: send a on-screen warning to the child that time is up, or immediately lock the system. Nintendo is giving parents the option to let kids police their own over-time gameplay, perhaps to find a save point or other logical stoppage, but parents can send a remote account shutdown should the child disobey such an alarm's warning. In one sequence, the video shows Bowser Jr. continuing a full hour past his alarm (the little brat). What the video doesn't clarify, however, is whether parents will be able to send remote shutdown notices, or if they only find out about kids' time overages after the fact.

Aside from the tiny iPhone used by Bowser in the video, the app looks fairly impressive – it can send notifications to a Switch, set daily limitations, and even display gameplay stats collected by the console. Between parental controls and the upcoming online services, it seems like Nintendo will be delegating key features of the Switch to dedicated iOS apps. Interesting strategy.

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Remaster, Episode 26: The Nintendo Switch Presentation

Myke, Federico, and Shahid break down Nintendo's Switch presentation.

On today's Remaster, we went over all the announcements from Nintendo's Switch presentation – including games, pricing, the new online service, what Nintendo didn't announce on stage, and more. You don't want to miss this one. You can listen here.

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Apple Increases tvOS App Size Limit to 4 GB

Nice change for tvOS app developers announced today by Apple:

The size limit of a tvOS app bundle has increased from 200 MB to 4 GB, so you can include more media in your submission and provide a complete, rich user experience upon installation. Also, tvOS apps can use On-Demand Resources to host up to 20 GB of additional content on the App Store.

On one hand, this prepares the platform for 4K support and larger file sizes in the future, and it makes another step towards legitimizing the Apple TV as a micro-console (in addition to bigger app downloads, developers can also require controllers in their games for tvOS 10).

However, the 64 GB version of the 4th generation Apple TV has been around for over a year now with little explanation from Apple as to why customers would want to spend more for increased storage, and this feels like lifting a limitation because why not.

I'm curious to see what happens now, particularly in terms of game releases on tvOS. This is a welcome change for game developers, but we haven't seen any major tvOS exclusives so far.

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Apple in 2016: The Six Colors Report Card

Jason Snell:

As we close the door on 2016, I thought it would be useful to look back at the year gone by and ask a panel of my peers who pay attention to Apple and related markets to take a moment and reflect on Apple’s performance in the past year.

This is the second year that I’ve presented a survey to a group of writers, editors, podcasters and developers. The survey was the same as last year’s. They were prompted with 11 different Apple-related subjects, and asked to rate them on a scale from 1 to 5, as well as optionally provide text commentary on their vote. I received 37 replies, with the average results as shown below.

I participated in this year's edition of the Six Colors Apple report card, which features average scores and answers on a variety of Apple topics. It's a good overview of where Apple stands today and where it could be going next.

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Why a 10.5″ iPad Would Make Sense

Dan Provost:

Rumors have been swirling about Apple working on an iPad that falls inbetween the 9.7" and 12.9" sizes they currently offer in the Pro lineup. John Gruber and Jim Dalrymple briefly discussed this on the latest episode of The Talk Show, with Gruber saying: “It doesn’t make any sense to me.” (discussion at 1 hour 41 minute mark). There is, I believe, one explanation that makes too much sense not to be true.

His numbers check out. An iPad with the same footprint of the 9.7" iPad Pro but a bigger display with the same pixel density of the iPad mini sounds like a very compelling iPad to me.

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Connected, Episode 124: A Bunch of Enterprising Italians

This week, the aging hosts of Connected remember their first reactions to the iPhone and talk about the value of independent blogging.

If you ever wondered how I got my very first iPhone, this week's Connected has the answer. You can listen here.

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Steven Aquino on AirPods and Siri

Some interesting thoughts about the AirPods by Steven Aquino. In particular, he highlights a weak aspect of Siri that isn't usually mentioned in traditional reviews:

The gist of my concern is Siri doesn't handle speech impediments very gracefully. (I've found the same is true of Amazon's Alexa, as I recently bought an Echo Dot to try out.) I’m a stutterer, which causes a lot of repetitive sounds and long breaks between words. This seems to confuse the hell out of these voice-driven interfaces. The crux of the problem lies in the fact that if I don’t enunciate perfectly, which leaves several seconds between words, the AI cuts me off and runs with it. Oftentimes, the feedback is weird or I’ll get a “Sorry, I didn’t get that” reply. It’s an exercise in futility, sadly.
[...]
Siri on the AirPods suffers from the same issues I encounter on my other devices. It’s too frustrating to try to fumble my way through if she keeps asking me to repeat myself. It’s for this reason that I don’t use Siri at all with AirPods, having changed the setting to enable Play/Pause on double-tap instead (more on this later). It sucks to not use Siri this way—again, the future implications are glaringly obvious—but it’s just not strong enough at reliably parsing my speech. Therefore, AirPods lose some luster because one of its main selling points is effectively inaccessible for a person like me.

That's a hard problem to solve in a conversational assistant, and exactly the kind of Accessibility area where Apple could lead over other companies.

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Testing the Operating Range of AirPods and Beats Solo3

Steffen Reich ran some tests to determine range differences between AirPods, W1-equipped Beats headphones, and older Beats models:

Much has been said about the virtues of the W1 chip Apple started baking into their latest wireless Beats line-up and of course the AirPods. By now we know for sure that W1 facilitates a much faster pairing process, as do we know that the chip significantly amplifies both battery life and conservation techniques. What’s less prominently talked about – at least from official sides – is the operating range of these wireless headphones and the presumed effect the W1 chip addition has had on that benchmark.

Obviously, walking a straight line in a park is no replacement for the kind of wireless interference you'd have on a train, in a crowded street, or in an office with walls and other Bluetooth devices nearby. Also, the AirPods are a new category altogether – I'm not sure how relevant a comparison to non-wireless Bluetooth buds can be.

However, these base results are in line with the excellent range I also experienced with the Beats Solo3, which makes me wonder how impressive (range-wise) future Studio Wireless headphones will be.

I keep wishing Apple would license the W1 chip to third-parties – especially on large headphones, it makes pairing and range performance so much better than regular Bluetooth.

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