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Apple Releases New Ad Featuring Portrait Mode

Apple released a new ad in its ‘practically magic’ series featuring the iPhone 7 Plus Camera app's Portrait mode called ‘Take Mine.’ Set in Greece, the video starts with a young woman arriving to visit her grandmother. They sit in a cafe where the young woman takes a photo of her grandmother using Portrait mode, which simulates a shallow depth of field.

The grandmother gasps when she sees the photograph exclaiming ‘What a great photo!’ which gets the attention of others nearby. That leads to the young woman being asked to take portraits of people all over her grandmother’s village. The action cuts between the woman taking photos and the portraits she takes, ending with the tagline ‘Portrait mode on the iPhone 7 Plus.’

Apple Watch Nike+ Ads Starring Kevin Hart Debut

The Apple Watch Nike+, with its special band, watch faces, and fitness features was released on October 28, 2016. Today, Nike released a series of ads titled The Man Who Kept Running starring actor-comedian Kevin Hart to show off the new watch.

The ads follow Hart as he leaves to try his new Apple Watch Nike+. The premise is that Hart disappears, but is found months later by a film crew as he runs through the desert 700 miles from home.

Each of the seven ads plays off of the question posed by the scheduling feature of the Nike+ Run Club watch app: ‘Are we running today?’ For Hart, the answer is always ‘yes.’ Each spot also highlights a unique feature of the Nike+ version of the Apple Watch that sets it apart from the regular Series 2 version.

Here is the ad that sets up the storyline for the series. The other videos can be viewed after the break.

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New Year’s Activity Challenge Coming for Apple Watch Users

Last month Apple encouraged Apple Watch owners in the U.S. to get out on Thanksgiving in exchange for an activity achievement and iMessage sticker. This morning Apple notified Watch users that a second activity challenge will be taking place at the start of the new year.

This new activity challenge, unlike its Thanksgiving counterpart, will take place worldwide, and completing it will take longer than just a single day. From the Activity app:

Earn this special achievement when you close all three Activity rings each day for any full week, Monday through Sunday, in January. You'll also earn special stickers in the Messages app.

Since the challenge keeps track of your Activity progress from Monday to Sunday, the official start of the challenge will be January 2nd, and the earliest it's possible to earn the achievement will be the 8th. But if you're unable to complete all three rings each day of that first week, you'll have three more chances: the weeks of January 9th, 16th, and 23rd.

Personally, I appreciate Apple's efforts to encourage greater health and fitness in life. watchOS 3's addition of activity sharing fostered healthy competition between my wife and I, and last month's Thanksgiving challenge led us both to get out and complete a 5K on the holiday, which we otherwise wouldn't have done. We're both already eager to score this new achievement trophy together.

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.

Daylite: A Business Productivity App for Mac and iOS [Sponsor]

Daylite is a business productivity app for Mac, iPhone, and iPad.

Organize you and your team’s contacts, calendars, projects, tasks, emails, notes, and new business opportunities all in one app.

Track sales and set reminders for follow-ups. See a full history of all emails, calls, and notes for each customer. Customize your own pipelines to track sales and projects. View your whole team’s calendar to make scheduling meetings simple. Daylite even integrates with Apple Mail so you can update customer info, set tasks and reminders, and add appointments to your calendar – all without leaving Mail.

Automate lead generation from online web forms with Daylite & Zapier integration. When someone fills out a form on your website through Google Forms or Wufoo, a new contact and business opportunity are creating in Daylite. You can then segment leads for specific email campaigns and track all of your communication with them in Daylite.

Always have your business info no matter where you go. Daylite is a native app so you can access your information on your Mac, iPhone, or iPad even when you don’t have an Internet connection.

Read how businesses all over the world are becoming more efficient with Daylite.

Our thanks to Daylite for sponsoring MacStories this week.

Minecraft: Pocket Edition Hits 1.0 and Gets an Apple TV Version

Minecraft fans got an early present under the tree today. Mojang, the maker of Minecraft: Pocket Edition on iOS, announced that it is releasing a big update to the game today as well as an all-new Apple TV version.

The update to Minecraft: Pocket Edition on iOS has been dubbed the Ender Update and brings the version number of the game to 1.0. Mojang’s Owen Jones says on the that:

my personal highlights have to be The Ender Dragon (because I’m Welsh and love dragons), The End (all dragons deserve to have a fitting home to relax in), and the Dragon’s Breath potion (it’s delicious). This update also brings this year's Festive Mash-Up Pack including all kinds of holiday themed looks.

The Ender Update is currently rolling out and should be available in the App Store soon. In the meantime, Mojang has put together a preview trailer highlighting the update and another featuring the Festive Mash-Up Pack that you can watch:

Mojang also announced that Minecraft will be released on the Apple TV today. Originally mentioned onstage at Apple’s October MacBook Pro event, the game will be available for $19.99. For a limited time the Apple TV version will include the following seven DLC add-ons for free: Holiday 2015, Town Folk, and City Folk skin packs, along with the Plastic, Natural, Cartoon, and Festive 2016 mash-ups.

Our Favorite Mac Apps of 2016

What becomes a favorite app is personal, complicated, and evolves over time. Favorites can be brand-new apps that debuted this year, old standbys that you go back to over and over, or newly-discovered apps that have been around for a while. With the end of the year in sight Alex, Jake, and I got together and each picked a handful of our favorite Mac apps that we used in 2016 to share with you.

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Apple Releases macOS 10.12.2 and watchOS 3.1.1

Today, Apple updated macOS Sierra 10.12.2 and yesterday, it updated watchOS 3.1.1 with the usual unspecified bug fixes and performance enhancements, but there are also a few other nice perks that are likely to attract customers to the update.

Some of the 72 new emoji accessible from the macOS character viewer.

Some of the 72 new emoji accessible from the macOS character viewer.

The macOS and watchOS updates both feature the same emoji added to iOS 10.2. The 72 new emoji, approved as part of Unicode 9.0 in June 2016, include new smileys, animals, food items, professions, sports, and more. Apple has also redesigned many of the existing emoji with a slightly more three-dimensional look and greater detail. As has been the case in the past, the new emoji added to macOS and watchOS should encourage adoption of what are otherwise primarily maintenance updates to each OS.

macOS 10.12.2 includes four new colorful wallpapers.

macOS 10.12.2 includes four new colorful wallpapers.

In addition, macOS adds four new wallpapers called Abstract Shapes, Color Burst 1, Color Burst 2, and Color Burst 3. The Color Burst wallpapers were first seen at Apple’s October MacBook Pro event and have since made cameos in advertisements for the new MacBook Pros.

Apple Publishes Super Mario Run Podcast

Two days out from the release of Super Mario Run for iPhone and iPad, Nintendo's marketing onslaught continues unabated, this time with a podcast.

Apple has published a new podcast featuring an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of the beloved Nintendo character. The podcast's official description reads:

Join the video game designer and creator famously known for Super Mario Bros. and other iconic Nintendo games for an insightful chat on the making of Super Mario Run. He'll be in conversation with TV personality Katie Linendoll to share the importance of fun and the inspiration behind the gameplay.

The Super Mario Run podcast is available in both video and audio formats. It is unknown at this time whether future episodes can be expected, or if the one episode available now will remain a stand-alone.