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.
Apple TV Plus has given second season orders to the four scripted drama series that launched the streaming service last week.
Dramas “See,” “For All Mankind,” “Dickinson” and “The Morning Show” have been greenlit for sophomore seasons. “Morning Show,” led by Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston, already had a two-season order and is already at work on its next season of 10 episodes.
Apple has yet to release any specific details about subscribers or viewership activity on the service, which bowed Nov. 1. Sources close to Apple say the service to date has drawn millions of users who are spending on average more than an hour on the Apple TV Plus platform. It’s unclear how many of those are paying subscribers rather than those taking advantage of the service’s seven-day free trial. A knowledgeable source said Apple insiders were impressed by the volume of activity on the platform, which spiked by triple digits this past weekend after the fanfare for the Nov. 1 debut.
Worth keeping in mind that, as part of Apple’s launch promotion for Apple TV+, it’s very likely that the majority of early viewers aren’t paid for the service yet.
I was reading Jason Tate’s (as always, excellent) Liner Notes column at Chorus over the weekend, and his comments on Apple Music’s approach to highlighting new releases resonated with me:
Every Friday I open up the Music app, go to the For You section, scroll all the way down to the bottom and look at the “New Releases” section. This section looks at your library and shows you new albums from the artists you have in your collection. It’s a quick way to see if I’ve missed anything big that I need to post about or want to listen to, as I prepare for this newsletter. There are a few things about this section that drive me nuts: it’s very hidden and hard to get to, it’s laid out weirdly and often misses artists I have in my collection, and it doesn’t have any way to show me singles from artists I like that were released or songs that are on upcoming albums from artists I like that were released over the past week. This entire section could be designed so much better and be so informative. They have all of the information needed to put together an incredibly useful page of new music that I’ve already signaled I’d like to know about, but don’t. The weekly New Music Playlists are nice, and often do include some things I want to know about, but they also are usually full of stuff I’ve already heard and have played multiple times. This missing feature is the single most frustrating part of Apple Music for me.
As much as I like using Apple Music (especially now that it offers time-synced lyrics), I’ve always been disappointed by its treatment of new music releases. I agree with every single issue mentioned by Tate: the ‘New Releases’ section is tucked at the very end of the For You page and laid out as a horizontal carousel that requires a lot of swiping; you can view the ‘New Releases’ page as a grid, which has sections for different weeks, but, in my experience, it only aggregates highlights for new releases from some of my favorite artists. The ‘New Music Mix’ playlist is not terrible, but it often comes loaded with stale data – songs I’ve already listened to multiple times and which shouldn’t qualify as “new” weeks after their original release date. Furthermore, I’ve found notifications for new releases for artists in my library unreliable at best: I occasionally get notifications for new albums, but never for new singles or EPs.
For people who want to stay on top of every new music release from their favorite artists, the tools available in Apple Music alone aren’t enough. And I understand why Apple doesn’t want to invest in this aspect of the service: not everyone runs a music-focused publication or needs to know about every single release for hundreds of artists every week. Since the unfortunate demise of Record Bird – the app that encapsulated my ideal new music release discovery tool – I’ve been building a new system to stay on top of music releases, and I’d like to explain how.
Federico is joined by a better Hackett to talk about Apple’s range of earbuds, then Stephen butts in to discuss Adobe’s big week and what Apple should do in the wake of iOS 13 and macOS Catalina’s buggy releases. Then, they fire the spoiler horn and review “The Morning Show” and “For All Mankind.”
You can listen below (and find the show notes here).
Connected, Episode 268
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Update, November 7: The shortcut has been updated with links to all currently announced Apple TV+ shows. You can find the updated download link below and in the MacStories Shortcuts Archive.
I was listening to the latest episode of Upgrade, and, among several fair points about the shortcomings of Apple’s TV app for iPhone and iPad, Jason Snell mentioned an issue that stood out to me: if you don’t know where to look, it can be hard to tell where exactly the Apple TV+ service lives inside the Apple TV app. This sentiment was echoed earlier today in this article by Benjamin Mayo at 9to5Mac:
Apple has made very few changes to the TV app design and feature set to accommodate the TV+ launch. TV+ is shoehorned in as just another source of content with very little consideration. With other streaming services, if you want to commit to their world and explore everything they have to offer, you can just open the dedicated app and never touch the TV app. With TV+, that’s simply not possible.
There is a channel section of the TV app that is dedicated to TV+ content — but it’s far from perfect. Finding the TV+ section requires a lot of scrolling, meandering past several screens worth of Watch Now recommendations for everything in the iTunes catalog.
I’ve been watching The Morning Show over the weekend (which I surprisingly liked a lot; I’m going to start For All Mankind and See next), and even though I’m used to the TV app’s quirks by now, I recognize that its navigation should be improved. And in particular regarding the new Apple TV+ service, I do believe that it’s somewhat buried in the TV app experience – by default, Apple doesn’t offer a single, easy way to open a “page” with Apple TV+’s complete catalog. So, I had to figure out a solution on my own.
Conversational shortcuts make Siri a programmable assistant, and Federico details how that works. Then Ryan commends Federico with a (symbolic) trophy for his creation of a Mac-like desktop environment on the iPad, complete with file and folder launchers.
A couple weeks ago on our iPad-focused podcast Adapt, Ryan challenged me to figure out a way to turn the iPad’s Home screen into a desktop-like environment with icons to reopen files and folders directly in the Files app. At first, I thought it couldn’t be done: unlike the Mac’s Finder, Files doesn’t let you create aliases to folders or place files on the Home screen; the Shortcuts app can create Home screen icons, but it doesn’t have access to documents located outside Shortcuts’ iCloud Drive container.
As I detailed on Adapt yesterday, I’m happy to introduce FS Bookmarks, a shortcut that lets you create direct launchers for files and folders stored in the Files app. FS Bookmarks is a hybrid Shortcuts-Scriptable tool that takes advantage of a native Files API (which I will call “bookmarks”) to expose the filesystem path of any file or folder stored in the Files app.
Following the announcement of AirPods Pro earlier today, Apple also released iOS, iPadOS, audioOS, and tvOS 13.2. Among various features (which we’ve detailed in a separate story here), one of the key improvements in this suite of software updates is extended flexibility of the HomePod’s music playback abilities.
In fact, by updating to the latest version of Apple’s software, you’ll gain a variety of new audio-related functionalities for HomePod, ranging from the ability to wave an iPhone atop the speaker to hand off audio to brand new integrations with the Shortcuts app as well as HomeKit scenes and automations. In this post, I’m going to go over all the different ways you can control audio playback on Apple’s Siri-integrated speaker, explain new shortcuts that can be built with these features, and share some first impressions based on my initial tests with today’s changes. We’re going to cover HomePod’s other new functionalities such as multi-user support and ambient sounds later this week. Let’s dive in.
In this week’s installment of the Shortcuts Corner, I share a custom Reminders-specific shortcut I’ve built to customize and enhance my daily experience with Apple’s task manager. Furthermore, I share a simple shortcut to quickly resume audio playback of any HomePod around the house and detail a new version of an old shortcut, which I’ve updated for iOS 13, made more flexible, and integrated with the rest of the system. Let’s dig in.