Federico Viticci

8538 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 two podcasts – Connected and Virtual.

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This week's sponsor

Earnest take control of your student loans.



“Bots Won’t Replace Apps”

I've been struggling to put into words the inanity I've seen in the first "bot" implementations launched on Facebook.

Dan Grover has done an excellent job with his story about modern conversational UIs, WeChat (he's a product manager there), and the shortcomings of current mobile OSes.

I loved this bit:

This notion of a bot handling the above sorts of tasks is a curious kind of skeumorphism. In the same way that a contact book app (before the flat UI fashion began) may have presented contacts as little cards with drop shadows and ring holes to suggest a Rolodex, conversational UI, too, has applied an analog metaphor to a digital task and brought along details that, in this form, no longer serve any purpose. Things like the small pleasantries in the above exchange like “please” and “thank you”, to asking for various pizza-related choices sequentially and separately (rather than all at once). These vestiges of human conversation no longer provide utility (if anything, they impede the task). I am no more really holding a conversation than my contact book app really is a l’il Rolodex. At the end, a single call to some ordering interface will be made.

Great comparison.

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Apple Q2 2016 Results: $50.6 Billion Revenue, 51.2 Million iPhones, 10.3 Million iPads Sold

Apple has just published their financial results for Q2 2016, which covered the three months from January through March 2016. The company posted revenue of $50.6 billion and earnt a quarterly net profit of $10.5 billion. Through the quarter it sold 10.3 million iPads, 51.2 million iPhones, and 4 million Macs.

“Our team executed extremely well in the face of strong macroeconomic headwinds,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We are very happy with the continued strong growth in revenue from Services, thanks to the incredible strength of the Apple ecosystem and our growing base of over one billion active devices.”

The Company also announced that its Board of Directors has authorized an increase of $50 billion to the Company’s program to return capital to shareholders. Under the expanded program, Apple plans to spend a cumulative total of $250 billion of cash by the end of March 2018.

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OmniFocus for iOS Adds Deep Automation Features

Derek Reiff, writing on The Omni Blog:

Recently customers have been wanting to take advantage of automation apps like Workflow, Drafts, Pythonista, and others to quickly add new actions or projects or switch to different views inside OmniFocus.

With 2.14, OmniFocus now includes best-of-class support for callback URLs. At its simplest, this means that you can create a workflow that adds more than one item to OmniFocus. But we didn’t just add support for two-way communication between OmniFocus and other apps, we added support for automating a whole lot more of the powerful capabilities of OmniFocus.

Ken goes into the nitty gritty in a detailed Discourse post. But aside from doing the usual name and note additions, you can add estimates, attachments, dates, repetition rules, flags, and even set a project to Parallel.

While I won't be switching away from 2Do, I've tried the beta of OmniFocus 2.14 and the new automation features on iOS are impressive. I think a lot of people are going to reconsider OmniFocus and take advantage of callbacks for app integrations.

The examples posted by Ken Case on the forums should give you an idea of the improved capabilities. It's no surprise that The Omni Group continues to redefine what making pro apps on iOS means.

It's also great to see TaskPaper being used as a structured text communication format – I'd like to see more developers follow this route.

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Earnest: Take Control of Your Student Loans [Sponsor]

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Our thanks to Earnest for sponsoring MacStories this week.


Dropbox Project Infinite

Interesting announcement from Dropbox today – a way to download files on-demand when using the desktop client:

With Project Infinite, we’re addressing a major issue our users have asked us to solve. The amount of information being created and shared has exploded, but most people still work on devices with limited storage capacity. While teams can store terabyte upon terabyte in the cloud, most individuals’ laptops can only store a small fraction of that. Getting secure access to all the team’s data usually means jumping over to a web browser, a clunky user experience at best.

Project Infinite will enable users to seamlessly and securely access all their Dropbox files from the desktop, regardless of how much space they have available on their hard drives. Everything in the company’s Dropbox that you’re given access to, whether it’s stored locally or in the cloud, will show up in Dropbox on your desktop. If it’s synced locally, you’ll see the familiar green checkmark, while everything else will have a new cloud icon.

In a way, this makes the desktop app more similar to the mobile clients – everything is always in Dropbox, and it's downloaded locally only when you need it. Smart move.

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Canvas, Episode 8: Apple Mail

You might think of Apple Mail as being a slightly weak client but, as we shall see, it's more powerful than you think. We tackle some of the special smart mailboxes that exist in Apple Mail, look at notifications and composing mail.

On the latest episode of Canvas, we covered the email client that millions of users deal with on a daily basis: Apple Mail. We have an episode coming about third-party email options, but, in the meantime, there's quite a bit to discover in Mail, too. You can listen here.

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Apple Posts New iPhone 6s Ads Highlighting Touch ID, 4K Video

Apple aired two new iPhone 6s commercials earlier today, highlighting the 4K video shooting capabilities of the device, as well as the Touch ID sensor with various iOS app integrations.

In the 1-minute 4K ad, dubbed 'Onions', Apple imagines a scenario in which a young girl shoots a close-up video of her mother cutting onions that somehow turns into a movie phenomenon. In the ad, the 'Onions' movie even goes on to win an award (with a ceremony hosted by actor Neil Patrick Harris) with a tongue-in-cheek tone that, presumably, wants to communicate how the iPhone's camera can be used to shoot high-quality footage – whether it's an onion or an actual movie.

In the second ad, Apple follows the style of its previous, fast paced iPhone 6s commercials to focus on what can be done with Touch ID on iOS 9. The ad shows people paying for products with Apple Pay, starting a car with Touch ID in a dedicated iPhone app, logging into bank accounts, and more.

You can watch the ads below.

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All New watchOS Apps to Be Native Starting June 1

During the weekend, Apple announced that, starting June 1, all new watchOS app submissions will have to be native – written with the watchOS 2 SDK.

This, of course, doesn't enforce existing watchOS 1.0 apps (built with the first SDK) to be updated for watchOS 2, so it'll be interesting to see how Apple will handle developers who launched a watchOS app last year, saw a muted response, and then ignored watchOS 2 due to a lack of incentives.

In my experience, the performance of watchOS 2 apps has only been marginally better than old watchOS 1.0 ones, and I haven't heard of developers rushing to support watchOS 2 as a must-rewrite-everything effort. If I had to speculate, perhaps new iPhone apps for iOS 10 or later could only support watchOS 3 – but, again, that wouldn't solve the issue for watchOS 1.0 apps currently on the App Store. Quite a curious conundrum.

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