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Game Day: Rubek

This week I’ve been playing a great-looking, tough puzzle game called Rubek from Xigma Games. As the name suggests, it’s a game involving colored cubes. Rubek is played from a three-quarters perspective, similar to Monument Valley. You guide a white cube along a path through each puzzle to the final goal by swiping on the screen to roll the cube.

The path you take is segmented into squares of different colors, including some with a small plus symbol in the center. Roll onto a colored square with a plus and the side of your cube the lands on that square changes to that color. This is where the game gets tough. You can roll any side of your cube across a dark grey square, but if you try to roll across a colored square along the path, the side of your cube that touches the square must match its color. The combination of color matching while accounting for where the six sides of your cube will land gets hard fast.

Your score is determined based on the number of moves necessary to complete the puzzle. At the end of each level you get a star rating based on how many moves it took you to finish the level. Rubek has over 75 levels in total, which add new mechanics as you progress like trigger blocks that modify the puzzle’s map when you roll over them, keeping the game fresh as you play through the levels.

Rubek’s settings let you turn off sounds and include a color-blind option that lets you adjust the color scheme used in the game. I’ve spent the last couple of months trying lots of different kinds of iOS games and found some great ones, but it’s nice to get back to a puzzle game, which is one of my favorite genres of all. Rubek is the sort of game you can play for 5 minutes or an hour depending on how much time you have, which I always appreciate, and it’s challenging without being frustrating. If you enjoy multidimensional puzzle games, Rubek is worth a try.

Rubek is available on the App Store for $1.99.

Copied 2.0

There's a great update to Copied, my favorite clipboard manager for iOS, released on the App Store today.

I've been using Copied since version 1.0 and it's a good example of an iCloud-based app that has always worked reliably (same with Ulysses). I use Copied to store bits of text and images and keep them synced across devices. Just this past week, I stored several shortcode templates in Copied for the special formatting of my iOS 10 review. I love the app.

I haven't had time to properly test the new version yet, but based on a few minutes of playing around with it, I think it has some terrific enhancements. The widget has been redesigned for iOS 10 and it can show more clippings at once. You can now create text formatters (with templates or JavaScript) to reformat text in specific ways before pasting it. There are rules to save clippings into lists based on text matches. There's a built-in Safari View Controller browser and both extensions (action and custom keyboard) have been rewritten with text formatter integration.

There's a lot to try in the latest Copied, and I'm already considering some text formatter scripts for my Markdown workflows. Copied 2.0 is a free update on the App Store.


Studio Neat Introduces the Material Dock

Just in time for the new iPhone 7 and Apple Watch Series 2, Studio Neat has introduced two handsome docks that integrate with charging cables that you supply. Called the Material Dock, one dock has a rounded rectangular base and charges the iPhone. The other model is circular and can charge an iPhone and an Apple Watch.

The Material Dock is made from natural, recyclable materials. The base of each dock is cut from a block of walnut features a soft matte finish. The iPhone and Apple Watch are supported by pieces of cork while charging. Small adjustments to the cork support allow the Material Dock to be used with or without a case on your iPhone, which is a nice touch that not all docks have. The bottom of the dock has non-slip strips of micro-suction material to keep it secure on a nightstand, desk, or other flat surface.

On the iPhone/Apple Watch model, the Apple Watch sits in front of the iPhone, which blocks the Home button. This probably wouldn't be an issue in under most scenarios that I would use the Material Dock, but if you expect you might want to use your iPhone while it and the Apple Watch are docked, it's worth keeping in mind.

I haven't tried the Material Dock, but I have used many of Studio Neat's other products in the past and all have been well-built from high-quality materials. If you want to tame your cables and charge in style, the Material Dock looks like a good choice.

The Material Dock is available on Studio Neat's website. The iPhone-only version is $45 and the iPhone/Apple Watch version is $70.

Connected, Episode 108: Confusion as a Discovery Mechanism

iOS 10 is here, and Federico has written the definitive review of it.

On the latest episode of Connected, we talk about the launch of iOS 10 and how my review was finalized. You can listen here.

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How RAW Changes iPhone Photography

Ben McCarthy, writing for iMore:

Editing RAW files feels like a huge leap forward in terms of mobile photography: With iOS 10, the iPhone is evolving from a great camera for taking casual photos with into a capable professional tool. It still has plenty of limitations, but I suspect we've passed a tipping point.

But shooting while out and about is one thing. What about using the iPhone in a studio? I gathered together a couple of friends to do a little impromptu photoshoot to see how the iPhone would hold up.

Ben is the developer of Obscura, which I featured in my review yesterday because of its native RAW support on iOS 10. He makes some good points on the limitations and advantages of shooting RAW on iPhone.


Austin Mann’s iPhone 7 Plus Camera Review in Rwanda

I consider the iPhone a computer with a camera more than a computer that makes phone calls. Therefore, Austin Mann's annual iPhone camera review is my favorite of the bunch. I've been linking them for the past couple of years, and I find Austin's approach always fascinating and well-presented.

This time, Austin has outdone himself. To properly test the iPhone 7 Plus' camera with optical zoom, they've flown to Rwanda in collaboration with Nat Geo Travel and Nat Geo Adventure to track gorillas and take close-up pictures, timelapses, test wide-color gamut photos, and more.

He writes:

As many of you know, in the past I've created this review in Iceland twice, Patagonia and Switzerland, but this year I wanted to really change things up. With indicators pointing toward possibilities of optical zoom I asked myself: where's the best place in the world to test optical zoom? Africa of course.

So this year, in collaboration with Nat Geo Travel + Nat Geo Adventure we’ve set out to get you the answers. I'm writing you from deep in the Nyungwe rain forest in southwest Rwanda… we've been tracking gorillas in the north, boating Lake Kivu in the west and running through tea plantations in the south… all with the iPhone 7 Plus in hand.

I've had a blast playing with the wide spectrum of new features and tech but as always, our mission is to find out the answer to one question:

How does all this new tech make my pictures (and videos) better than before?

The result is beautiful. The video "review" is a mini-documentary/short film about tracking down mountain gorillas, and it's 9 minutes long. Seeing how they found the gorillas brought a big smile on my face, and you can notice how the zoom interface of the iPhone 7 Plus was useful for that purpose.

Watch it below, and go check out Austin's photos and summary of the experience here.


Club MacStories: Year One iBook

A year ago we launched Club MacStories, and since then we have published 60 newsletters across MacStories Weekly and the Monthly Log.

We realised a few weeks ago that as we’ve built up this archive of newsletters, there is a lot of content, and we wanted to create a distilled version of the archive. With that in mind, we have created this interactive iBook which contains a small selection of the best content we have published over the last 12 months in MacStories Weekly and the Monthly Log.

Our goal in this was to give new members a more easily digestible highlight of what they can expect over the coming weeks and months as they begin their membership. But equally it is for existing members who want to revisit some of the content we’ve published, or to catch up if they missed a few newsletters. So whether you’re a new member, or an existing member, we hope you enjoy reading this iBook.

We’re excited to begin the second year of Club MacStories, and we hope you are too.

Thank you for being a Club MacStories member.

– Federico, Graham, and John

Read more

Mario Stickers Make Their Debut

Last Wednesday, Shigeru Miyamoto of Nintendo was a surprise guest at Apple’s iPhone 7 event. Nintendo announced that Super Mario Run, an endless runner game starring Mario, would be coming to iOS in December. At the end of Miyamoto’s presentation, he added that Mario stickers would be launching alongside the introduction of iOS 10. Apple’s new iPhone operating system won’t be out until tomorrow, but sticker packs and iMessage apps have been showing up on the App Store all day, including the Super Mario Run sticker pack.

I really like these stickers and it demonstrates how developers can use sticker packs as a way to market upcoming products. We’ve tried dozens of iMessage apps and sticker packs over the past few weeks here at MacStories. In fact, I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say Federico and I have exchanged hundreds of stickers and app messages over just the last few days as we prepare for the iOS 10 launch. Keep an eye on MacStories, because we will be sharing some of our favorite iMessage apps and sticker packs in a roundup tomorrow.