Posts in news

Homescreen.me Adds Track, Follow and Notifications

Homescreen.me, which we first covered in June, has today received a big update which significantly enhances the utility of the website. Préshit Deorukhkar writes:

Ever wondered how your Homescreen has evolved over time? What if you could go back in time and see which apps you were using a month ago? Well, now you can.

You can now browse all your Past Homescreens on the site. All the screenshots that you’ve uploaded since you signed up here are available for your perusal. So go ahead, take a trip down memory lane.

I love this feature, and although I've only uploaded four Home screens to Homescreen.me so far, I look forward to regularly uploading my Home screen and seeing how it changes over a longer period of time. I'm still hoping that the folks at Homescreen.me implement a reminder system that sends me an email once a month reminding me to upload a new Home screen. But until that happens, I've created a recurring reminder in Due.

The other big new feature to come to Homescreen.me is the ability to follow your favorite users. Home screens from the people you follow will appear on the Timeline page of Homescreen.me. Also, because Homescreen.me is a website that you may only visit occasionally, you'll also get an email notification for when someone you follow posts a Home screen.

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Update to Apple Store App Adds Personalized Recommendations

First rumored by Bloomberg last week, Apple has updated its Apple Store app to include personalized product recommendations that use customers’ buying history to make suggestions. Contrary to rumors, the recommendations are not part of a separate ‘For You’ tab in the Apple Store app. Instead, product recommendations and local Apple Store events are included under the app’s ‘Discover’ tab. In addition, Apple has unified the Apple Store iPhone and iPad apps into a single Universal app that is available to download free from the App Store.

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Modern Atlas, Your Travel Companion

Before I travel, I like to scout out a location to see what's nearby. I don't like to have a set schedule, but I do prefer to have a list of a few activities, sights, and restaurants in mind when I arrive somewhere. Modern Atlas, a new Universal app on iOS, is perfect for that. Whether you’re planning a trip, wandering around a new city, or just armchair traveling, Modern Atlas has a wealth of information and stunning photography that's presented in a beautifully-designed app.

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1Password Adds Subscription Plan for Individuals

Last year, Agile Bits debuted a 1Password subscription plan for teams, which was followed by a family plan in February. So it only seems natural that today, Agile Bits added a subscription plan for individuals. Dave Teare, Agile Bits’ founder, writing on the company’s blog, lays out the unique features of the $2.99/month subscription:

Our new individual hosted service comes with everything you expect from 1Password, along with these new features:

  • Built-in automatic sync across all devices
  • Data loss protection
  • Web access to your data on 1Password.com
  • Item History for restoring deleted or changed items
  • Secure Document storage
  • Brand new multi-factor security model

In addition, an individual subscription includes 1Password on all platforms (even Android and Windows) and any updates during your subscription period at no additional cost. The main difference between the individual subscription and a family plan is that the individual plan does not include password and document sharing, permission controls, or account recovery for someone who gets locked out of their account.

Although Agile Bits now has three separate 1Password subscription plans, you can still license a copy of each app without signing up for a subscription if you prefer. The Mac app will remain $64.99 and the In-App Purchase that unlocks the Pro features of 1Password for iOS will remain $9.99. If you do decide to sign up for the individual subscription and do so before September 21st, 2016, you get the first six months free.

Agile Bits’ new subscription strikes a good balance. A 1Password.com account is backed by some serious encryption, but even so, not everyone wants to, or can, use a cloud-based sync solution for sensitive data like passwords, so it’s nice to see that you can still be license the apps separately. At roughly $36/year, an individual subscription is a good deal relative to the cost of licensing the apps separately, especially after you account for the unique features the subscription provides, and the fact that the first six months are free if you sign up before September 21st.

App subscriptions are becoming a popular business model because they ensure recurring revenue that helps developers continue to maintain the apps they sell. As a longtime user and fan of 1Password, I’m glad to see Agile Bits moving to what I hope will sustain 1Password over the long term. I’m also happy to see that in implementing a subscription model, Agile Bits has not done so at the expense of providing its customers with choice and a great value. If you are not already using 1Password, I highly recommend you give it a try.


Instagram Introduces New Stories Feature

Today, Instagram is rolling out a separate feed of photos and videos called Stories, which expire after twenty-four hours, much like Snapchat’s stories feature. Instagram’s Stories, introduced with a post on the company's blog, adds a separate row of circular avatars to the top of your Instagram feed. According to The Verge’s Casey Newton, who has an in depth look at the new feature and interview with Kevin Systrom, Instagram’s co-founder and CEO:

Each bubble represents an account that you follow on Instagram, and contains every photo and video clip (up to 10 seconds) that they've posted to their stories feed within the past day. (The avatars are displayed according to an algorithm that attempts to show your favorite accounts first.) Tap a bubble and their story will open in full screen, advancing automatically with a slick rotating cube effect. Unlike Snapchat, you can tap on the left-hand side of the screen to rewind the feed back to an earlier post.

Unlike the main Instagram feed there are no likes or public comments, but you can tap a photo to send a private message to the user. Privacy settings work the same way as your existing Instagram settings. If you account is private, only your followers will see your Stories. If your account is public, your Stories will be too.

The point of Stories is to get people to use Instagram more often. According to Newton:

Instagram describes its stories product as a way to promote the sharing of moments that don’t meet the higher bar of a traditional Instagram post. But it’s also designed to get people to share more, period. The Information reported in June that the average number of Instagram posts per user declined between 2013 and 2015. Meanwhile, consumption of video alone on Snapchat increased 25 percent between February and April, to 10 billion views a day, according to Bloomberg.

To reinforce the message that Instagram Stories are an informal place to share candid photos with friends, Instagram has added a series of tools to decorate your photos by using a limited set of filters, drawing tools, text and emoji.

Screenshots courtesy of Instagram.

Screenshots courtesy of Instagram.

It will be interesting to see to what extent Instagram users take to Stories. I know friends who view the relatively low volume of their Instagram feed as a feature of its own because it doesn’t need to be checked as frequently to stay current. I also wonder how well informal stories will co-exist with the more curated, artistic feel of the existing Instagram feed. However, in a world where attention and engagement are the main drivers of social networks, it certainly isn’t surprising that Facebook would take Instagram in this direction. The only question is how many users will follow.

You can watch Instagram's video introducing Stories below.

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Igloo: An Intranet You’ll Actually Like [Sponsor]

Information is coming from everywhere: email, files, chat, the 30+ cloud-based apps we use every day — it’s getting harder to keep things simple. Igloo is a modern intranet that makes sense of the modern world.

Stay connected with people by using newsfeeds and integrated chat apps; get the information you need with (easy to navigate and secure) file storage and apps you already use like Zendesk and Salesforce; and keep work moving with instant notifications and document controls.

The modern workplace is anywhere with an internet-connected device — and a modern intranet like Igloo works wherever you do.

See what your company has been missing and try Igloo for free today.

Our thanks to Igloo for sponsoring MacStories this week.


Apple Releases the Apple TV Remote App

The Apple TV Remote app, which has been available as part of the iOS 10 developer beta since WWDC, is now available to the general public as a free download in the App Store. The app, which is iPhone-only, approximates the look and functionality of the Siri Remote that comes with the latest generation Apple TV, but with some important differences.

The Apple TV Remote app is a brand-new app. The previous app for controlling the Apple TV, called iTunes Remote, remains on the App Store, but warns that it is not optimized for iOS 10 if you open it on a iPhone running the iOS 10 beta. The top two-thirds of the Apple TV Remote’s screen is dominated by a dark grey rectangular area that is the equivalent of the trackpad on the Siri Remote. A large menu button dominates the space below the trackpad, which lets you step back through levels after drilling down into the Apple TV’s interface. To each side of the menu button are buttons that skip to the previous or next track if you are listening to music, and change to ten-second skip ahead and back buttons if you are watching video.

The bottom row includes a play/pause button, a ‘home’ button that takes you to the Apple TV’s grid of app icons from wherever you are, and a Siri button. A ‘Details’ button also appears in the top right corner of the screen when media is playing that opens a detail view that shows what is currently playing along with a timeline scrubber, a play/pause button, forward and reverse buttons, and shuffle and repeat buttons for music. Because the iPhone includes an accelerometer and gyroscope, the Apple TV Remote can also serve as a game controller for Apple TV games.

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Apple Airs New iPad Pro Commercial, Asks “What’s a Computer?”

Apple posted a new iPad Pro commercial today, highlighting the nature of the device as a new kind of computer.

The ad follows a simple model: it showcases common usage of an iPad Pro with accessories, apps, and system features that aren't available on traditional computers. The video jumps from showing the Apple Pencil to mentioning the iPad's touch screen, the detachable Smart Keyboard, and apps like Office and Procreate that offer unique functionality on iOS 9. At the end, iMessage in Split View and Picture in Picture (also two features of last year's iPad-focused iOS 9 update) make an appearance.

In the narration of the ad, Apple explains:

Just when you think you know what a computer is, you see a keyboard that can just get out of the way. And a screen you can touch and even write on. When you see a computer that can do all that, it might just make you wonder – "Hey, what else can it do?"

The video closes with the tagline "Imagine what your computer could do if it was an iPad Pro".

The iPad Pro's new commercial comes at an interesting time for Apple. The company announced its latest iPad, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, as the "ultimate PC replacement" for Windows switchers, but its upcoming iOS 10 update only includes minor iPad changes – a departure from iOS 9's iPad breakthroughs. On the other hand, the iPad line recently returned to revenue growth after several quarters, likely thanks to the iPad Pro and its higher selling price.

Explaining to consumers how an iPad can be a PC replacement and, at the same time, a new take on desktop computing has always been one of Apple's toughest propositions. This new iPad Pro commercial seems to start from the basics again, asking what a computer truly is and how it can be different. It'll be interesting to see if a wider marketing campaign and more commercials will follow.

You can watch the video below.

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Apple Refreshes Emoji with iOS 10 Developer Beta 4

Apple refreshed over 100 of its emoji with iOS 10 beta 4, which was released earlier today. Some of the highlights include:

  • gender-diverse emoji, including female athletes and professionals;
  • a new rainbow flag;
  • new family options; and
  • a water pistol.

In addition to the new emoji, Apple redesigned many of its existing emoji. For instance, ‘grinning face with smiling eyes’ no longer looks like someone gritting their teeth. Many other emoji received a subtler update as a result of a new shading gradient.

Existing emoji were updated too.

Existing emoji were updated too.

It appears as though Apple is not quite finished with its emoji refresh because some of the approved Unicode 9 emoji, including the much anticipated bacon emoji, are not part of the iOS 10 beta 4 release.

Currently, the new, updated emoji are only available as part of the iOS 10 developer beta.