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Mac and iOS App Store Web Preview Pages Get a Makeover

Apple has introduced new web preview pages for the App Store and Mac App Store. The new design more closely tracks the App Store changes debuted as part of iOS 11. Interestingly, the web previews for Mac apps share the same refreshed design despite the fact that the Mac App Store has barely changed since its introduction in 2011.

The new design features bigger images and more white space. Reviews are laid out horizontally as cards near the bottom of the page. Longer reviews open in a pop-over card that hovers above the page when the ‘more’ link is clicked. Mac apps include a ‘View in Mac App Store’ button near the top of the page too.

The new web previews are only accessible from search results loaded in the desktop version of Safari or another desktop browser. The mobile version of the browser offers to take you to the App Store when a link is tapped, even if you long press the refresh button and pick ‘Request Desktop Site.’ In my tests, the desktop search results that load in mobile Safari look more like their desktop counterparts, but DuckDuckGo and Bing still offer to open the App Store, whereas Google’s links are simply unresponsive.

I like the look of the new preview pages. The old ones were too closely tied to the design of the iTunes App Store, which was eliminated last fall.

The inclusion of Mac app previews is intriguing. It makes sense for both Stores to share a common design language, but the Mac App Store is in desperate need of love and attention for many reasons that extend beyond its design. Whether this is a sign that the Mac App Store will get that attention soon, Mac apps will be thrown in with iOS apps on the App Store, or something else will be interesting to watch.

Apple Announces New Campus in the Works, Pledges Significant Investments in US Economy

Today in a press release Apple shared an update on its contributions to the US economy. One significant piece of news shared as part of that broader story was the surprise announcement of a new Apple campus in the works.

The company plans to establish an Apple campus in a new location, which will initially house technical support for customers. The location of this new facility will be announced later in the year.

Despite many employees' transition into the newest campus, Apple Park, not yet being complete, it makes sense for a company of Apple's scale and growth to continue expanding its corporate footprint. No further details on the new campus were shared, other than that it will open within the next five years.

Apple expects to invest over $30 billion in capital expenditures in the US over the next five years and create over 20,000 new jobs through hiring at existing campuses and opening a new one.

The announcement of a new campus was only a small portion of the overall press release, which presented several financial details regarding Apple's five year plan for economic contribution.

  • $350 billion will be contributed to the US economy over those five years.
  • $5 billion is committed to Apple's Advanced Manufacturing Fund, up from the previously announced $1 billion.
  • $55 billion is estimated to be spent in 2018 alone with domestic suppliers and manufacturers.
  • $38 billion is the expected tax payment when Apple repatriates overseas profits under new tax law.

These are huge numbers, clearly reflecting Apple's current financial success. With numbers like these, and an anticipated 20,000 new hires over five years, it's no surprise the company will need another campus.

Spark: The Future of Email [Sponsor]

Email robs you of precious time. Spark recovers those lost moments by knowing what’s important and organizing it for you neatly and automatically.

Spark’s smarts start with its inbox. Messages that arrive in Spark’s Smart Inbox are automatically categorized as Personal, Notifications, and Newsletters, which makes it easy to focus on what’s important and return what’s not later.

Intelligent search makes it simple to find messages no matter where they are. Spark’s natural language algorithm thinks like you do. Just ask for messages the way you would if you were asking a friend.

Email notifications are a problem that can spin out of control quickly. Spark uses Smart Notifications to filter out the junk and only notify you what you need to know now.

In addition, Spark features beautifully designed card-style calendar invitations that can be accepted with just one tap, the ability to send later and set up reminders for messages that don’t receive a reply, message snoozing, and Quick Replies that let you acknowledge a message with a single tap. Spark also has customizable gesture actions and works with Dropbox, Box, iCloud Drive, and more. You can even customize Spark's sidebar with favorite folders and saved searches.

As if that weren’t enough, soon Spark 2.0 will introduce Spark for Teams, which will change the way teams collaborate giving them the ability to do things like comment and discuss messages and write messages together.

The future is now. Download Spark today for free on iOS or on macOS and take control of your inbox.

Thanks to Spark for supporting MacStories this week.

A Roundup of CES Home Automation and Apple Accessory Announcements

CES is a big, messy spectacle that has everything from vaporware and products you didn’t know you needed – and probably don’t – to truly cool new gadgets. We’ve been following the announcements this week and have rounded up a collection of the most interesting and promising gear we’ve seen so far. Many of these products have not shipped yet, so we haven’t had an opportunity to try them, but these are gadgets we will be watching closely throughout 2018 and that are likely to turn up again on MacStories later this year. CES doesn't end until Friday, so be sure to check back for updates on any additional announcements that catch our eyes.

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Jamf Now: Easily Set Up, Manage and Protect Your Apple Devices [Sponsor]

For some people, IT is a task and not a career. Jamf Now helps you manage and secure your iPad, iPhone and Mac devices at work.

For example, when a business is first starting out, it’s pretty easy to keep track of a couple of Apple devices. But as a company grows and it start to buy more tech for employees, it gets harder to keep track of everyone’s Mac, iPhone, and iPad. Figuring out how to secure an iPad that an employee lost can be tough — especially if they work remotely.

Jamf Now makes that, and much more, easier. You can check real-time inventory, configure Wi-Fi and email settings, deploy applications, protect sensitive company data, and even lock or wipe a device from anywhere. Jamf Now helps manage your devices so you can focus on your business. There’s no IT experience needed.

MacStories readers can start securing their business today — by setting up the first 3 devices for free. Add more, for just $2 a month, per device. Create your free Jamf Now account today.

Thanks to Jamf Now for supporting MacStories this week.

Remote Control for Mac: An iOS Controller for Your Mac [Sponsor]

Remote Control for Mac is an iOS app that lets you use your Mac whether you’re sitting in front of it or not. Whether you’re running a Mac as a media center or just want to launch apps or control system settings on your Mac when you’re doing something else, Remote Control for Mac makes the process simple.

One of the greatest use cases for Remote for Mac is controlling a Mac that serves as a media center. A Mac mini makes a great media server, but it’s not comfortable to sit on the couch with a keyboard and trackpad or mouse. Remote Control for Mac cuts through the complications making it easy to control your media center. Just install a helper app on your Mac and use Remote Control for Mac to control system settings like volume and apps and services like iTunes, Amazon Prime Video, Netflix, YouTube, Plex, Kodi, SoundCloud, Spotify, and VLC.

Remote for Mac isn’t just for Mac media centers though. The uses are only limited by your imagination. You can just as easily use the app to browse the web or read email on a Mac connected to your TV. Using the app’s keyboard and virtual trackpad makes navigation a breeze. When you’re finished, Remote for Mac can turn off your display or shut down your Mac too.

Remote has a special giveaway for MacStories readers. The first 20 readers who visit this link will get a free copy of Remote for Mac.

Take control of your Mac today. Download Remote Control for Mac from the App Store.

Our thanks to Remote for Mac for supporting MacStories this week.

Apple Apologizes for Poor Communication About iPhone Throttling and Reduces Battery Replacement Price

In an open letter to customers, Apple has addressed how it handles the CPU performance of iPhones with older batteries.

We’ve been hearing feedback from our customers about the way we handle performance for iPhones with older batteries and how we have communicated that process. We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize. There’s been a lot of misunderstanding about this issue, so we would like to clarify and let you know about some changes we’re making.

First and foremost, we have never — and would never — do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.

Since iOS 10.2.1 the CPU performance of iPhones with older batteries has been reduced by iOS to prevent device shutdowns. The CPU throttling was not communicated to customers, however, which led to accusations of planned obsolescence.

In response, Apple is taking two steps:

To address our customers’ concerns, to recognize their loyalty and to regain the trust of anyone who may have doubted Apple’s intentions, we’ve decided to take the following steps:

• Apple is reducing the price of an out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacement by $50 — from $79 to $29 — for anyone with an iPhone 6 or later whose battery needs to be replaced, starting in late January and available worldwide through December 2018. Details will be provided soon on

• Early in 2018, we will issue an iOS software update with new features that give users more visibility into the health of their iPhone’s battery, so they can see for themselves if its condition is affecting performance.

In addition to the open letter to customers, Apple added a new support article called iPhone Battery and Performance, which explains how lithium-ion batteries chemically age and how this can lead to device shutdowns. The support article also lists some of the changes users can expect to experience if their iPhone’s CPU is slowed down.

It’s unfortunate that the kind of clear, reasonable explanation of why device CPUs are throttled wasn’t communicated to customers when it was first introduced in iOS 10.2.1. Battery chemistry and device shutdowns are not the easiest topics to explain to customers, but today’s letter shows Apple is capable of it and hopefully will be more likely to do so in the future.

PortraitCam: Portrait Mode for Everyone [Sponsor]

PortraitCam by BrainFeverMedia takes iPhone portrait photography to the next level. The app, which was featured by Apple in the App Store's ‘New Apps We Love,’ uses the latest Depth APIs and Face Detection to bring an incredible level of control over portraits.

The app automatically detects faces and captures depth data for compatible devices using Apple’s latest camera technologies. For two-lens devices like the iPhone X, PortraitCam uses the depth information captured by your iPhone. For other devices though, PortraitCam uses Face Detection to generate a depth map.

But what’s most impressive is what PortraitCam does with depth information. The app takes that data and uses it to let you dial in exactly the portrait you want, regardless of whether you’re shooting live or editing an existing photo. You can control the amount of background blur and shape of the bokeh. You can add simulated lenses too. It’s a simple, sensible workflow that works perfectly for portraiture.

BrainFeverMedia has a deep catalog of photography apps. That experience shows in PortraitCam, which draws on its past work with filters and effects to help you create beautiful portraits.

When you get together with friends and family this holiday season, download PortraitCam from the App Store and wow them with a special year-end portrait.

Thanks to PortraitCam for supporting MacStories this week.