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Halide Mark II Review: The Convenience of Computational Photography and Flexibility of RAW in an Elegant Camera App

iPhone photography has come a long way in the past 13 years. The original iPhone had a 2 MP camera that produced images that were 1600 x 1200 pixels. Today, the wide-angle camera on an iPhone 12 Pro has a 12 MP camera that can take shots that are 4032 x 3024 pixels.

Hardware advancements have played a big role in iPhone photography, but so has software. The size of an iPhone and physics limit hardware advances, resulting in diminishing returns year-over-year. Consequently, Apple and other mobile phone makers have turned to computational photography to bring the power of modern SoCs to bear, improving the quality of images produced by iPhones with software.

Computational photography has advanced rapidly, pushed forward by the increasingly powerful chips that power our iPhones. Every time you take a photo with your iPhone, it’s actually taking several, stitching them together, using AI to compute adjustments to make the image look better, and presenting you with a final product. The process feels instantaneous, but it’s the result of many steps that begin even before you press the shutter button.

However, the simplicity and efficiency of computational photography come with a tradeoff. That pipeline from the point you press the Camera app’s shutter button until you see the image you took involves a long series of steps. In turn, each of those steps involves a series of judgment calls and the application of someone else’s taste about how the photo should look.

Apple has made great strides in computational photography in recent years, but it also means someone else's taste is being applied to your images. Source: Apple.

Apple has made great strides in computational photography in recent years, but it also means someone else’s taste is being applied to your images. Source: Apple.

In many circumstances, the editorial choices made by the Camera app result in great photos, but not always, and the trouble is, your ability to tweak the images you take in compressed file formats is limited. A more flexible alternative is to shoot in a RAW file format that preserves more data, allowing for a greater range in editing options, but often, the friction of editing RAW images isn’t worth it. The Camera app is good enough most of the time, so we tolerate the shots that don’t look great.

However, what if you could have the best of both worlds? What if you could capture a lightweight, automatically-adjusted photo and an editing-friendly RAW image at the same time, allowing you to pick the right one for each image you take? If you like the JPEG or HEIC image produced by Apple’s computational photography workflow, you could keep it, but you could always fall back to the RAW version if you want more editing latitude. That way, you could rely on the editorial choices baked into iOS where you like the results but retain control for those times when you don’t like them.

That’s what Halide Mark II by Lux sets out to accomplish. Halide is a MacStories favorite that we’ve covered many times in the past, but Mark II is something special. The latest update is an ambitious reimagining of what was already a premier camera app, building on what came before but with a simpler and easier to learn UI. Halide Mark II puts more control than ever into the hands of photographers, while also making it easy to achieve beautiful results with minimal effort. Halide also seeks to educate through a combination of design and upcoming in-app photography lessons.

By and large, Halide succeeds. Photography is a notoriously jargon-heavy, complex area. It’s still possible to get bogged down, fretting over which settings are best in what circumstances. However, Halide provides the most effective bridge from point-and-shoot photography to something far more sophisticated than any camera app I’ve used. The result is a camera app that gives iPhone photographers control over the images they shoot in an app that’s a pleasure to use and encourages them to learn more and grow as a photographer.

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Reeder 5 Review: Read Later Tagging, iCloud Sync, and Design Refinements

Last year we named RSS client Reeder 4 the Best App Update as part of the MacStories Selects awards for a good reason. Reeder has been one of the best-designed RSS apps available for a very long time. With the release of version 4, developer Silvio Rizzi rebuilt the app on a modern foundation from the ground up. Roughly one year later, version 5 is out as a brand new app that takes what Rizzi began last year and extends it further with a host of excellent new features and design refinements.

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Timery Debuts Powerful Time Tracking Widgets for iOS 14

Timery’s iOS 14 widgets in light and dark mode.

Timery’s iOS 14 widgets in light and dark mode.

Widgets in iOS 14 are a genuine hit, in large part because of the visual customization advantages they provide and the ability to be placed on the Home Screen. Back when they were first announced in June, however, there was concern about one way these new widgets would be a downgrade from their predecessors: widgets in iOS 13 and earlier could offer more interactivity, even to the point of acting as mini-apps.

Due to limitations imposed by Apple on iOS 14 widgets, I was afraid one of my most-used widgets would become far less useful. That widget is for Timery, the Toggl time tracking app. Timery’s iOS 13 widget enabled not only starting and stopping timers right from its widget, but you could also see a real-time view of your current running timer. With iOS 14’s widgets, I feared Timery wouldn’t be able to update its widget’s data often enough to provide a real-time timer view, and I wasn’t sure how convenient the widget would feel when starting a timer would require launching the full Timery app.

Today Timery’s iOS 14 update has arrived, and I’m thrilled to report that my concerns were entirely unfounded. Developer Joe Hribar has managed to work around Apple’s API limitations as well as could be hoped, and deliver new widgets that actually provide more functionality than before.

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FoodNoms’ Widgets Thoughtfully Combine Goal Summaries with Actions to Make Food Tracking Easier Than Ever

I first reviewed FoodNoms late last year when it launched and was impressed. The app is a privacy-focused food tracker to help you keep up with your nutritional goals. FoodNoms sets itself apart from its competitors by proving that logging and tracking can come in a user-focused, elegantly designed package. The result is an app that makes forming good eating habits a simpler, better experience than most food tracking apps I’ve tried.

In the months since its launch, FoodNoms has received a long list of useful updates. For instance, there are more ways to save and access the foods you track than ever. Items can be marked as favorites and saved along with other foods as reusable recipes or meals. Also, the app’s search functionality lets you search foods, meals, recipes, and favorites.

One of the shortcomings of FoodNoms that I pointed out in my initial review was that it only included short-term graphs, which made it hard to track trends. That’s been remedied with the inclusion of weekly and monthly charts. The database of foods has also been improved, and a community-driven food database was introduced to allow users to contribute foods. FoodNoms’ Shortcuts actions have been expanded, and alternative icons added too.

FoodNoms' four widget types in action.

FoodNoms’ four widget types in action.

Most recently, FoodNoms added widget support, so users can get an overview of progress towards their goals throughout the day and quickly access the app’s functionality. FoodNoms includes four types of widgets: Goal, Goals Summary, Log Food, and Quick Actions.

The Goal widget, which comes in the small size only, is a simple widget that can track a single goal you’ve set for yourself. Perhaps my favorite option that it and the Goals Summary widget share is the ability to pick what happens when the widget is tapped. For the Goal widget, the options are opening the app, going to the Today view, searching, scanning bar codes and food labels, logging a drink, and viewing goal details. The Goals Summary widget includes the same options, with the exception of viewing goal details. Goals Summary also allows two separate nutrient goals to be tracked instead of just one.

Log Food, as you’d expect, lets you pick foods to log. The widget can be set up to offer smart suggestions based on recently-logged foods or show foods of your choice instead. The medium version can fit two foods, while the large version supports four. Tapping on one of the foods takes you directly to it in FoodNom’s database, where you can adjust amounts and other settings before logging it. Of course, if you want more food items on your Home Screen, you can use multiple instances of the Log Food widget and stack them.

The final widget is a medium-sized one that includes six Quick Actions that remind me a little of Anybuffer or Drafts’ quick action widgets. FoodNoms includes actions to start a search, view your library or favorites, access the app’s Quick Entry feature, scan a barcode or nutrition label, and log a drink. The widget is a great way to jump to exactly where you want within FoodNoms with minimal effort.

Between multiple options for tracking your goals and the thoughtful use of actions tied to widgets, FoodNoms offers users a ton of flexibility on their Home Screens. FoodNoms is also a fantastic example of a subscription model that supports ongoing development. The subscription allows developer Ryan Ashcraft to update and refine the app throughout the year with new functionality. In return, users get an excellent food tracker they’ll use multiple times every day that is ad-free and won’t sell their data, which is well worth the app’s $4.99/month or $29.99/year subscription.


Ulysses 21 Brings Revision Mode to iPhone and iPad Alongside Updated Design

Today the latest version of Ulysses, the excellent Markdown text editor, was released for iPad and iPhone. Ulysses 21 comes with two main changes: it brings the previously Mac-exclusive revision mode to iOS and iPadOS, while also introducing design updates that take advantage of new iOS 14 design elements, such as pull-down menus. It’s not a huge update, but it’s a nice one nonetheless for iPhone and iPad users.

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GoodLinks Updated with Three-Column iPad Layout, Widgets, and New Keyboard Shortcuts

GoodLinks has only been out since June, but it quickly became my go-to read it later app that I dip in and out of every day. That position has only been reinforced with its frequent updates in the months following release, including its most recent update which adds a new three-column iPad layout, widgets, and new keyboard shortcuts.

The new iPad sidebar design is particularly well-suited to GoodLinks. The first column, which can be hidden, allows users to navigate between Unread, Starred, Untagged, Read, and Tags. The Tags section is collapsible, which declutters the sidebar when you don’t need to view a specific tag.

The second column is the article list that displays the favicon for each post, its title, a short excerpt, image, site and author information, and associated tags. The top of the second column features a button to sort from oldest to newest and vice versa, and one to add new links.

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Deliveries Modernizes with Improvements in Every Corner of the App

There can be no doubt that 2020 has been a record year for package deliveries. Perhaps things were already trending that direction pre-pandemic, but during a year in which many people have unexpectedly found themselves staying home more than ever, the number of deliveries being made has surely seen a huge spike.

Deliveries, the package tracking app for iOS and Mac, has received a strong update today with a wide variety of quality of life improvements. There’s nothing huge or flashy here, but the sum of the many small changes should help Deliveries continue being one of the best and easiest ways to track that steady stream of packages heading your way.

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Sticky Widgets Brings Simple Sticky Notes to Your Home Screen

If you’re anything like me, the steady stream of apps adding support for iOS 14 widgets have put your Home Screen in a constant state of flux. Just when I think app releases have settled down and I can step back to consider which widget types I want on my devices, an app with an interesting new widget idea comes along and throws my just-birthed Home Screen strategy for a loop. The latest app continuing that trend is Sticky Widgets.

Sticky Widgets enables placing sticky note-style widgets on your iPhone or iPad Home Screen which can be modified simply by tapping on the widget. It’s utility that’s such an obvious fit for widgets, I’m surprised I haven’t seen a hundred other apps doing the same thing.

What makes Sticky Widgets great is the simplicity of the experience. When I’ve considered the idea of building widgets containing nothing but text, as is possible with several widget creation apps, I’ve always thought that would require writing the text inside an app then manually setting up new widgets every time I wanted to change the text that’s displayed. That sort of workflow felt far too cumbersome, so until now I never set up widgets that displayed static text.

With Sticky Widgets, however, there’s no need to create new widgets every time the text changes. Rather, you can have a single widget that stays in the same place on your Home Screen, and whenever you need to change its text, just tap the widget, type away, and your widget’s been updated with the new text. You don’t need to worry about writing too much or too little text for the widget to display either, because whether you’re using a small, medium, or large widget, text will automatically resize to best fit the widget space.

Sticky Widgets is light on additional features, but that’s fine for a simple utility like this. You can change your widget color between yellow, pink, and blue, and use MarkerFelt, Noteworthy, or the system’s default San Francisco font for your text. One valuable feature is the ability to save different notes for different widgets, which is done by modifying the Note ID from a widget’s configuration screen (long-press the widget and hit Edit Widget). That way you can have multiple different sticky notes if you need them.

Sticky notes have been a tried and true method of remembering important things throughout the day. Historically they’ve been used on computer monitors, desks, refrigerators, or a million other places where we know they’ll catch our eye. With Sticky Widgets, you can bring that same valuable utility to your iPhone or iPad Home Screen.

Sticky Widgets is available on the App Store as a free download.


Apollo Brings the Best of Reddit to iOS 14’s Widgets

Christian Selig, developer of the excellent Reddit client Apollo, has always been deeply connected with his users and Reddit culture on the whole. Many of Apollo’s updates focus on the kind of nit-picky features and tweaks that heavy users of the app and platform care about. So it should come as no surprise that in building iOS 14 widgets for Apollo, Selig took inspiration from some of the things people love most about Reddit.

Apollo offers a whopping seven different types of widgets, roughly half of which are the sort of widgets you would expect – displaying posts from your favorite subreddit or providing launchers into different subreddits – while the other half specialize in bringing the best of Reddit to your Home Screen.

Let’s start with the fun ones: Wallpaper, Showerthoughts, and Jokes.

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