Federico Viticci

9485 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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Introducing MultiButton: Assign Two Shortcuts to the Same Action Button Press on iPhone 15 Pro

MultiButton for iPhone 15

MultiButton for iPhone 15

I got my iPhone 15 Pro Max last week, and I’m loving the possibilities opened by the Action button combined with the Shortcuts app. But as I was playing around with different ideas for the Action button, I had a thought:

Wouldn’t it be great if instead of just one shortcut, I could toggle between two shortcuts with the same Action button press? That’s exactly what my new MultiButton shortcut does.

With MultiButton, you’ll be able to assign two separate shortcuts to the Action button. Unlike other solutions you may have seen that always make you pick shortcuts from a menu, MultiButton automatically cycles between two shortcuts if you press the Action button multiple times in rapid succession. You don’t need to pick shortcuts from a list; just press the Action button and MultiButton will take care of everything.

Toggling between two shortcuts with MultiButton.Replay

Allow me to explain how MultiButton works and how you can configure it for your Action button. In the process, I’ll also share some new shortcut ideas that you can start using today on your iPhone 15 Pro.

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Apple’s Revised AirPods Pro 2 and Lossless Audio Support on Vision Pro

Soon after Apple’s Wonderlust event, it became clear that the company’s revised AirPods Pro with a USB-C case offered more than an updated connector. As detailed in a press release, the upgraded version of the second-generation AirPods Pro “unlocks powerful 20-bit, 48 kHz Lossless Audio with a massive reduction in audio latency”. But how?

Here’s Joe Rossignol, reporting at MacRumors:

In a video interview with Brian Tong, Apple’s VP of Sensing and Connectivity Ron Huang explained why only the updated second-generation AirPods Pro with a USB-C charging case support lossless audio with Apple’s upcoming Vision Pro headset.

Huang revealed that the H2 chip in the USB-C AirPods Pro supports the 5GHz band of wireless frequencies for ultra-low latency and less interference, while the H2 chip in the original second-generation AirPods Pro with a Lightning case is limited to the 2.4GHz band. Apple says it is this 5GHz support that enables the updated AirPods Pro to support lossless audio with the Vision Pro, which is slated for release in the U.S. in early 2024.

You can watch the video below:

The addition of 5GHz wireless makes complete sense in hindsight, and it doesn’t surprise me that Apple prioritized sound quality and latency reduction for a platform where full immersion is key to the experience.

Beyond Vision Pro, however, I wonder whether we’ll ever have any updates on the lossless audio front regarding Apple Music and AirPods Pro.

We know that Apple Music’s lossless catalog supports resolutions “ranging from 16-bit/44.1 kHz (CD Quality) up to 24-bit/192 kHz”. The new AirPods Pro fall short of supporting hi-res lossless playback at 24-bit/192 kHz, but so-called CD Quality lossless playback should now be within the capabilities of the device. Last time Apple gave a statement on the lack of lossless playback in AirPods Pro, they mentioned there are “other elements” to improve sound quality that aren’t necessarily about Bluetooth codecs. Is Apple waiting until they can support full 24-bit/192 kHz playback in future AirPods Pro hardware, or are there more audio-related changes coming with the launch of Vision Pro?


iPhone 15, USB-C, and External Displays

Apple published an extensive support document about the USB-C connector on the new iPhone 15 lineup (we should be receiving our new iPhones later this week at MacStories, so stay tuned for our coverage), and a few details about compatibility with external displays caught my attention.

For starters, yes – Apple implemented DisplayPort connections over USB-C just like on the iPad Pro. The iPhone, however, is limited to a lower resolution:

iPhone uses the DisplayPort protocol to support connections to USB-C displays at up to 4K resolution and 60Hz.

Note that the latest iPad Pros support connections up to 6K, allowing you to connect an iPad Pro to a Pro Display XDR if you hate your wallet. You can try this with an iPhone 15 too, but display resolution is going to be limited to 4K. The Studio Display will be supported too, obviously.

Another tidbit from Apple’s support document:

You can connect your iPhone to an HDMI display or TV with a USB-C to HDMI adapter or cable. Adapters and cables that support HDMI 2.0 can output video from your iPhone at 4K resolution and 60Hz.

The Apple USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter is compatible with iPhone. This adapter can output video from iPhone at up to 4K resolution and 60Hz, including content in HDR10 or Dolby Vision if your display or TV supports HDR.

If my theory is correct, we should soon be able to connect an iPhone to an HDMI capture card (such as the ones I covered in my iPadOS 17 review) via Apple’s adapter and an HDMI cable, connect the capture card to an iPad, and use a compatible app to see the iPhone’s display on your iPad. That could be used for screencasts, playing videos from an iPhone on the iPad’s display, or, better yet, play a videogame from the iPhone in a Stage Manager window on the iPad.

The iPhone itself doesn’t support Stage Manager, so, unlike Samsung phones, it can’t be turned into a desktop workstation when plugged into an external monitor (I hope this happens down the road though). However, I do believe we’re going to start seeing some interesting experiments with iPhones being used as handheld gaming consoles with external monitors. Whether you’ll be using a capture card to turn an iPad into an external monitor for an iPhone using apps like Orion1 or Genki Studio2 or connect it to a portable OLED display, I think this newfound hardware modularity is going to be fascinating to observe.

  1. I tested the new app by the makers of Halide today shortly before it came out, and while I found its onboarding and UI delightful and the app worked well at standard resolutions, its built-in upscaling mode didn’t work for me. I tried displaying Nintendo Switch games on my iPad Pro using Orion and 4K upscaling, but the feature made games unplayable due to 3-4 seconds of added latency. I hope the Orion developers can work on a fix for this since software-based upscaling that doesn’t require a separate dongle could be a fantastic reason to use an iPad as a monitor. ↩︎
  2. This is the app that I covered as Capture Pro in my iPadOS 17 review. As it turns out, the developer teamed up with the folks at Genki (makers of the excellent Covert Dock Mini that I use with my Switch) and released the app under the name Genki Studio on the App Store this week. The functionality of the app is unchanged, and I still recommend it. ↩︎

iOS and iPadOS 17: The MacStories Review

In the year when the vision is elsewhere, what do you get the OS that has everything?

Well, last year was weird.

For the first time since I started writing annual reviews of Apple’s two mobile operating systems – iOS and iPadOS – I published a review without the iPad part. Or rather: I had to publish it a month later given the mess Apple found itself in with Stage Manager for iPadOS 16 and its half-baked, embarrassing debut.

I don’t want to go over the specifics of that entire saga again and how we got to a shipping version of Stage Manager for iPadOS 16 that didn’t meet my expectations. Spoiler alert: as we’ll see later in this review, Apple listened to feedback and fixed the most glaring issues of Stage Manager in iPadOS 17, striking the balance between “guided multitasking” and freeform window placement that was missing from last year’s debut. Stage Manager for iPadOS 16 will remain another blip in the iPad’s long and storied history of ill-fated multitasking features. There’s no need to talk about it again.

I want to explain, however, why the past 12 months have been different than usual in iOS and iPadOS land beyond the fact that I couldn’t work on my iPad Pro for the first half of 2023.1

Following the launch of iOS 16 with its Lock Screen widgets and after Apple wrapped up work on the last big-ticket item on the iOS 16 roadmap (Live Activities for the Lock Screen and Dynamic Island, which launched in late October), it felt like the entire Apple community only started thinking about one product for the next six months: the headset. What would later be known as the Vision Pro and visionOS platform became the topic of conversation in Apple-related publications, podcasts, and YouTube channels. Leading up to WWDC 2023, anticipation surrounding the upcoming headset eclipsed anything related to other platforms.

And rightfully so. As I explained in the story that I wrote after I was able to try a Vision Pro at Apple Park, the excitement was justified. It’s always a rare occurrence for Apple to introduce a new hardware product with associated software platform; but to do so with a mind-blowing experience unlike anything I ever tried before in my life is truly something special. Apple had been working on visionOS and Vision Pro for years, and we were all thinking about it and waiting for it at WWDC. And the company delivered.

This context is necessary because the visionOS/Vision Pro development timeline explains what’s going on with iOS and iPadOS 17 this year. Both OSes are grab-bag style updates with a collection of welcome enhancements to different areas of experience. I quipped years ago that modern iOS updates need to have a little bit of everything for everyone; that has never been more true than with iOS 17, albeit for a different reason this time: most likely, because Apple didn’t have time to also deliver big, vision-altering upgrades on the iPhone this year.

iOS and iPadOS take a bit of a secondary role in 2023, happily conceding the spotlight to a new software platform that hasn’t launched yet, but which developers around the world are already testing in person.

To be clear, I am not complaining. iOS and iPadOS 17 may not have an industry-defining, obvious tentpole feature, but in their approach to offering miscellaneous improvements, they’re fun and interesting to cover. Of the two, iPadOS is the one that suffered from lack of development resources the most and whose strategy could be easily summed up as “it’s iPadOS 16, but we fixed Stage Manager”. Which, again, given the circumstances, is absolutely fine with me.

While Apple was busy with visionOS this summer, I was having fun exploring iOS 17’s collection of app updates and, as we’ll see in this review, extensive upgrades to one system feature: widgets.

As always every year: let’s dive in.

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  1. Did I ever tell you the story of how I used a Microsoft Surface in secret as my main computer from January to June 2023 until Apple unveiled the new Stage Manager for iPadOS 17 and everything was good with the world again? How I spent six months in computing wilderness and questioned every single one of my tech decisions? And how I ultimately accepted that I prefer Apple platforms because, at the end of the day, they're made by people who care about great design and user experience? I did, and you can listen to the story here↩︎

I Used a Game Boy Camera for FaceTime Video Calls in iPadOS 17 and It Was Glorious

A major change introduced by iPadOS 17 that is going to make video creators and gamers happy is support for UVC (USB Video Class) devices, which means an iPad can now recognize external webcams, cameras, video acquisition cards, and other devices connected over USB-C. I started testing iPadOS 17 thinking this would be a boring addition I’d never use; as it turns out, it’s where I had the most fun tinkering with different pieces of hardware this summer.

Most of all, however, I did not anticipate I’d end up doing FaceTime calls with a Game Boy Camera as my iPad Pro’s webcam.

I’m in the process of writing my annual iOS and iPadOS review, and in the story I’ll have plenty more details about the changes to iPadOS 17’s Stage Manager and how I’m taking advantage of UVC support to play Nintendo Switch and Steam Deck games on my iPad’s display. But in the meantime, I wanted to share this Game Boy Camera story because it’s wild, ridiculous, and I love it.

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Apple Music Gains New Algorithmic ‘Discovery Station’

Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors on a new addition to Apple Music:

Apple Music today gained a new “Discovery Station,” which is located under the “Listen Now” section under Top Picks in the ‌Apple Music‌ app. The customized radio station is paired with the personalized radio station featuring your name, and it has the “Made for You” label. It can also be accessed through this link for those who do not yet see it.

As noted by AppleInsider, the radio station appears to play songs of a similar style to songs that are in your personal library and that you have listened to and liked in the past, but it chooses songs you don’t have in playlists or your library.

I’ve been writing about the topic of algorithmic discovery in music streaming services for years now, so as soon as I read about this new station, I immediately went to check it out.

It’s only been a few hours, but my impression is that Apple sees the “discovery” part of this ‘Discovery Station’ as something fundamentally different from Spotify’s Discover Weekly. Spotify’s popular algorithmic playlist (which refreshes once a week) is generally skewed toward lesser-known acts and recent releases; in the hours I’ve been testing Apple’s new radio station, it seems it’s not afraid to recommend older music from bands I am familiar with and that I wouldn’t consider “niche”, but which I don’t have in my music library either. For instance, I’ve been listening again for the last 30 minutes, and my recommendations were largely mid-2000s emo/pop-punk songs. Not that I’m complaining.

Apple hasn’t officially announced the Discovery Station yet, and I assume they’re still adjusting the balance of the algorithm powering it. I did get a few recommendations from new and unknown (at least to me) artists, which is a good sign that the ultimate goal of the radio station might be a healthy mix of songs you’ve never heard of and songs you sort of knew but never saved in your library.

I’m going to keep an eye on the Discovery Station; I have a feeling I’ll end up listening to this radio station a lot over the coming weeks.


A Quietly Big Year for tvOS

Speaking of catching up on my reading queue: here’s Chris Welch, writing at The Verge last week about tvOS 17:

tvOS 17 isn’t trying to reinvent any of this. There are now six icons in each row, so you can add yet another app to your main “dock” at the top of the screen, but that’s about as exciting as the big interface changes get. Apple no longer seems preoccupied with becoming some all-encompassing aggregation hub for streaming entertainment, and there are good reasons for this. The company’s pipe dream of streaming content from popular third-party subscription services directly from the Apple TV app quickly fell apart. Netflix refuses to play ball with any effort to create a universal watchlist outside of the confines of its own app — whether it’s from Apple, Google, or anyone else — so what’s the point? Things are now more fragmented than I’d like, but it’s the content owners and streaming services putting those walls up for their own self-interest.

So instead, Apple is making improvements and touching up areas of the Apple TV experience that it can fully control. And it’s starting with one of the iPhone’s first major ecosystem tricks.

Chris put together a great list of changes coming to tvOS this year, most of them revolving around the ecosystem advantage Apple has compared to their competitors in this field. Rather than trying to beat Google and Amazon on price, Apple is finally leaning into the unique feature they have: iPhone owners who also have an Apple TV.

My favorite change coming in tvOS 17, however, is something that will allow me to stop using my iPhone when watching TV: VPN apps.

For years I’ve been forced to watch HBO content1 with a fake US account by starting playback on the iPhone and AirPlaying the video stream to my Apple TV. Later this year, I’ll be able to install a VPN app directly on the Apple TV and stream content on it without having to worry about my iPhone and AirPlay. Good riddance.

  1. I refuse to call it “Max” now. Sometimes I wonder how some companies can even come up with some names. ↩︎

More on iPadOS 17’s Stage Manager

As I always do every summer, I read other journalists’ opinions about the new versions of iOS and iPadOS after I’ve published my preview story. This week, as I’m catching up on my reading queue (yes, I’m still using the Reading List/Notes setup I described here), I was pleased to see I’m not the only one who’s liking the new Stage Manager for iPadOS 17. Similarly, I’m not alone in thinking Apple should continue refining the iPad’s multitasking system and catching up with macOS.

Here’s Jason Snell, writing last week at Six Colors:

Unfortunately, one of my most hoped-for features for Stage Manager didn’t make it into iPadOS 17: you can’t run the iPad on an external display with its internal screen shut off, as you can when a MacBook runs in lid-closed mode. Not only can the second screen be distracting, but there’s stuff Apple insists on displaying on the iPad screen, and sometimes apps get thrown over to the iPad screen when you don’t want them there.

I’ve been working with the fake clamshell mode I detailed on MacStories for the past few weeks. It’s doable, but some of the inherent limitations of this workaround are incredibly annoying. For instance: there’s no way to show Control Center on an external display (seriously). I want to believe Apple is working on a real clamshell mode for iPadOS 18.

David Pierce, writing at The Verge, has also some ideas for features still missing from Stage Manager:

But now Apple needs to make Stage Manager an actual iPad feature. It needs to integrate it with the other iPadOS navigational tools and windowing systems in a way that makes sense. Let me have widgets and apps together in a space! And please, please let me save a collection of apps with a name and then bring it up with a Spotlight search, please. It needs to take advantage of the tablet’s outrageous processing power and actually let you use more than four apps at a time. It needs, in short, to make Stage Manager feel like part of the iPad instead of a wholly separate device that just happens to live inside the same screen.

The more I look at macOS Sonoma, the more I wish I could see widgets from my iPad’s Home Screen underneath Stage Manager’s windows. That’s the kind of feature that would make a lot of sense on a bigger iPad Pro.


On the Value of Threads’ Social Graph

Jason Tate, in his always-excellent Liner Notes newsletter1, has written about the practical value of Threads’ built-in social graph and how it differs from signing up for Mastodon or Bluesky:

This is a key (and likely killer) feature for onboarding someone into Threads. Like TikTok, you don’t have to do anything else after signing up to start seeing stuff. Is all of that going to be relevant to you? Probably not. But it removes the problem of most social media platforms: a user signing up and then going, “Ok, now what?” Building on top of the Instagram social graph removes a huge barrier and gives Threads a bootstrapping head start. It’s “valuable” to any Instagram user almost immediately. The app itself is fine. It’s not what I would prefer in an app for this kind of thing (Ivory is). But it’s fine. In my playing around with it over the past few days, I have two main thoughts, the first is on what works, and the second is on what needs to change. Let’s start with what works. The people are here. Joining Mastodon and joining BlueSky, I can find maybe 5% of the people I’m looking for. On Mastodon, it’s a lot of my tech and nerd friends. On BlueSky, it’s a few joke accounts. On Threads, I’d venture almost 90% of the people I’m looking for are there. Music people and bands that never joined Mastodon are there, and they’re posting. Many of the baseball and basketball accounts I follow are there, and they’re posting during games. This is a huge use case for me in a real-time app like this. Social media, and communities, are all about who is on the platform. The value a user gets is directly tied to the people who are there posting on it. I can love Mastodon as much as I want, but if I cannot extract the value I’m looking for from it daily, I’ll use it less. And that’s why I want Threads to succeed if they follow through on their promise to federate with the Fediverse.

That’s precisely the issue with Mastodon for me. I love Mastodon, and I’ve built an amazing audience of tech enthusiasts and MacStories readers there, but the non-tech people I want to follow online just aren’t there. I’ve been on Mastodon for several months now, and so many communities I used to follow on Twitter never signed up; meanwhile, I noticed folks from music Twitter, VGC Twitter, and videogames Twitter show up on Threads within days. And they’re posting.

So far, the value of Threads2 is that it fills a hole left by Twitter that Mastodon, for a variety of reasons, never filled. I don’t know if it’ll ultimately succeed without Meta ruining it in the long run, but anything to move communities away from Elon works for me right now.

  1. If you love music and don’t subscribe to Chorus.fm, you’re missing out. I read Jason’s site religiously every week (and have been for decades, since it was AbsolutePunk). ↩︎
  2. You can find me as @viticci there. We’re working on bringing out company accounts to Threads too. ↩︎