Federico Viticci

8790 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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AirPods, Siri, and Voice-Only Interfaces

Ben Bajarin makes a strong point on using Siri with the AirPods:

There is, however, an important distinction to be made where I believe the Amazon Echo shows us a bit more of the voice-only interface and where I’d like to see Apple take Siri when it is embedded in devices without a screen, like the AirPods. You very quickly realize, the more you use Siri with the AirPods, how much the experience today assumes you have a screen in front of you. For example, if I use the AirPods to activate Siri and say, “What’s the latest news?” Siri will fetch the news then say, “Here is some news — take a look.” The experience assumes I want to use my screen (or it at least assumes I have a screen near me to look at) to read the news. Whereas, the Amazon Echo and Google Home just start reading the latest news headlines and tidbits. Similarly, when I activate Siri on the AirPods and say, “Play Christmas music”, the query processes and then plays. Where with the Echo, the same request yields Alexa to say, “OK, playing Christmas music from top 50 Christmas songs.” When you aren’t looking at a screen, the feedback is important. If I was to ask that same request while I was looking at my iPhone, you realize, as Siri processes the request, it says, “OK” on the screen but not in my ear. In voice-only interfaces, we need and want feedback that the request is happening or has been acknowledged.

Siri already adapts to the way it's activated – it talks more when invoked via "Hey Siri" as it assumes you're not looking at the screen, and it uses UI elements when triggered from the Home button.

Currently, activating Siri from AirPods yields the same feedback of the "Hey Siri" method. I wonder if future Siri will talk even more when it detects AirPods in your ear as it means only you will be able to hear its responses.

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CardioBot: Heart Rate and Activity Tracker for Apple Watch [Sponsor]

Your Apple Watch measures your heart rate every 4 minutes during the day. With CardioBot, you can easily understand the data captured by the Apple Watch so you can improve your lifestyle and discover notable patterns.

CardioBot is an iPhone app that reads heart rate data stored by the Apple Watch in HealthKit. The app separates readings in low, resting, high resting, and elevated heart rate through different colors and charts, allowing you to see averages at a glance.

CardioBot also supports viewing data captured during workouts, and it can also provide sleep analysis information for a complete dashboard of your heart rate. All of this is done with a minimal and elegant interface that makes it easy to view statistics for individual days, browse detailed timelines, and compare day-to-day changes.

CardioBot is available for $2.99 on the App Store.

Our thanks to CardioBot for sponsoring MacStories this week.


Super Mario Run Is a Defense of Craftsmanship

Excellent point by Sam Rosenthal on Super Mario Run:

Borrowing a staple from modern console Mario games, each level in Super Mario Run has multiple tiers of coins to collect. The coins fundamentally change the way you navigate the space, and sometimes the space itself changes to accommodate them. A just out of reach coin reminds you about the spin jump’s utility. Former obstacles are recontextualized as potential platforms.

If the game’s initial tutorial feels like a concession to a broader audience, the coins remind us why Nintendo’s game design deserves to be treasured. Even on another company’s platform, in a genre they didn’t invent, they unearth an astonishing amount of surprise and delight.

Collecting all the coins shows how Super Mario Run isn't just "a runner game for iOS" – it's a classic Nintendo game. There's an ingenuity to each level that can only be appreciated by playing to get the harder coins. Seriously – if you think you've completed Super Mario Run by clearing all the stages, go back and try to collect all the coins. The game changes quite deeply.

Unfortunately, most people won't even see the fourth stage. And that's a shame, because I think Nintendo delivered a lesson in iOS game design that everyone should experience.

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Canvas, Episode 26: Advanced Workflow Programming

This week Fraser and Federico take a look at some of the advanced programming structures in Workflow.

On this week's episode of Canvas, we cover some of the advanced features of the app, including conditional blocks and regular expressions. On the final episode of the Workflow series, due to be released in January, we'll cover even more advanced Workflow use cases.

You can listen here.

If you haven't listened to the previous episodes of the Workflow series yet, you'll want to go back and start from there.

Sponsored by:

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My Must-Have iOS Apps & Web Services, 2016 Edition

2016 has been the year that I got used to iOS as my primary computing platform. After years of slowly transitioning from macOS, 2016 was all about optimizing my workflows and getting the most out of my iPhone and iPad.

As I documented in two stories – one in February, the other last week – the consolidation of my iOS-only setup revolved around the iPad Pro. I see the 12.9-inch iPad Pro as the ultimate expression of iOS for portable productivity. With my 2011 MacBook Air now used three hours a week exclusively for podcasting, I invested my time in understanding the iPad platform at a deeper level. Thus, following two years spent assessing the viability of working from iOS, 2016 was characterized by the pursuit of better iOS apps for my needs. That effort was most notable on the iPad, but it also affected the iPhone, which I see as the mobile sidekick to my iPad Pro.

Two trends emerged once I began outlining a list of candidates for my annual Must-Have Apps roundup. First, the apps that define how I work on iOS haven't dramatically changed since last year. As you'll see in this year's collection, the core of what I do on iOS is in line with last year; there are some new entries and apps that have left the list, but my overall app usage is consistent with 2015.

The second pattern is more interesting. To be able to accomplish more every week and automate more aspects of my routine, I have increasingly switched to web services in lieu of iOS-only apps. In looking back at the past year of MacStories, I realized that a good portion of new workflows were based on web services, web automations, and open APIs. Some of those web services also offer iOS clients; others are strictly web-only, but I integrated them with iOS apps through Workflow and Zapier.

For these reasons, you'll notice a difference in the 2016 edition of my roundup. In addition to my must-have iOS apps, I've added a section for my must-have web services. Whether I primarily use them with iOS counterparts, in Safari, or via an API, these are the web services that have helped me handle more responsibilities for my two businesses at MacStories and podcasting duties at Relay FM.

As in previous years, you'll find a series of personal awards at the end of the story. These include my App of the Year and Runners-Up, and, for the first time, a Web Service of the Year and winners in other iOS categories.

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Connected 122:, Episode 2016: Big, Heavy and Vaguely Disappointing

With 2016 (finally) drawing to a close, the Connected trio hop in their time machine and revisit the biggest tech stories of the last 12 months.

On this week's Connected, we revisited the biggest stories from the past year. It's funny how some of them feel like they happened a long time ago. You can listen here.

Sponsored by:

  • Smile: Give the gift of Smile, and you’ll be giving the gift of time.
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#MacStoriesDeals 2016 Holiday Edition: Best Deals for iPhone, iPad, and Mac Apps & Games

Every year, thousands of iOS and macOS app deals are launched for the holidays. At MacStories, we handpick the best deals for iOS and Mac apps and collect them in a single roundup with links to buy or share discounted products directly. You don't have to be overwhelmed by app deals; we take care of finding the best ones for you.

Bookmark this post and come back to find updated deals later today. Updates will be listed as new entries at the top of each section; iOS apps are organized in sub-categories for easier navigation.

For real-time updates, you can find us as @MacStoriesDeals on Twitter.

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