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Apple’s Cycle Tracking: A Personal Review

The Cycle Tracking app on watchOS and inside Health on iOS.

The Cycle Tracking app on watchOS and inside Health on iOS.

Menstruation is often forgotten or overlooked – ironic considering that 50% of the population experiences it. This applied to health tracking on Apple Watch and iPhone too, which for the first year offered nothing related to menstruation, but this year Apple Watch received a dedicated Cycle Tracking app, and symptom tracking in the Health app which includes fertility tracking as well. The previous absence of this feature was notable, primarily because other competing health trackers like Fitbit offered it a long time ago.

Everyone who menstruates has different needs when it comes to tracking cycles – if you should track birth control, sexual activity, fertility, and more. What I like most about Apple’s implementation of this feature is that you can turn off elements which aren’t useful for you; I’m sure many others will do the same as me and turn off the vast majority of the options. I personally get the impression that a lot of the features are targeting people trying to conceive, and honestly, that’s not me. That said, I’ve spent a few months evaluating this setup, and comparing it to previous systems I’ve tried, and now I’m ready to talk about it.

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My Modern iPad Home Screen: Apps, Widgets, Files, Folders, and Shortcuts

My iPadOS Home screen.

My iPadOS Home screen.

For several years after its launch, one of the best and worst things about the iPad was that it was basically just a blown-up iPhone. This meant the device was extremely easy to use and intuitive, but it also meant lots of “computer-like” tasks were difficult to perform on an iPad. When the iPad Pro debuted in late 2015, that began to change. Features like Split View, Slide Over, Picture in Picture, and drag and drop made the iPad a more capable computer than ever. However, despite those advancements, it took until this fall before one of the iPad’s core iPhone inspirations was altered: the Home screen.

Before iPadOS, the iPad’s Home screen was just a larger version of an iPhone Home screen, with no unique advantages to it. That finally changed mere months ago, when iPadOS 13 brought two primary improvements to the Home screen: it could hold 30 icons rather than 20, and it could include pinned widgets.

These two changes alone weren’t radical departures from the Home screen’s iPhone origins, but combined with other discoveries, they unlocked significant new possibilities.

On a recent episode of Adapt, I challenged Federico to try re-creating a Mac-like desktop environment on the iPad’s Home screen, complete with file and folder launchers. What he came up with is exactly what I’d hoped for. This newfound ability, alongside iPadOS 13’s enhancements to how shortcuts work when added to the Home screen, and the debut of MacStories Shortcuts Icons, meant it was time for me to seriously consider a new approach to my Home screen.

What I’ve come up with includes apps, app folders, files, file folders, shortcuts, and of course, widgets. It’s a diverse setup, and it all lives on a single page of icons. Let me explain.

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Adobe Releases Photoshop for iPad and Aero, an iOS AR Creation Tool, Plus Offers a Peek at 2020’s Illustrator for iPad

Source: Adobe

Source: Adobe

Adobe MAX begins today in Los Angeles and runs through November 6th. As in past years, the three-day conference is an opportunity for Adobe to announce new products and updates to existing ones.

Last year, Adobe previewed Photoshop for iPad and Aero, an iOS AR creation tool. Today, those apps are finally out of beta and are available to everyone in the App Store. In fact, both Photoshop and Aero showed up on the App Store the evening before the start of MAX, providing me with a little hands-on time with them in advance of their official release.

Adobe has also previewed an iPad version of Illustrator, another of its core Creative Suite apps, which the company says will be available sometime in 2020.

Adobe’s announcements are packed with updates to a wide range of its products, but there’s a clear focus this year on mobile apps. In addition to Photoshop, Aero, and Illustrator, the company also announced updates to Lightroom for iOS and iPadOS and its Rush video creation app.

However, the centerpiece of Adobe’s mobile announcements is Photoshop, the company’s iconic professional design app relied upon by creative professionals worldwide. Ever since word of Photoshop for iPad was leaked to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman in July 2018, the idea of ‘full’ or ‘real’ Photoshop on the iPad has captured imaginations. That initial leak, combined with Adobe’s early marketing efforts, led to outsized expectations for the first version of the app.

Instead of the full-featured, desktop-replacement app that some people were expecting, Adobe says that it has built a foundation with its new cloud-based PSD files and Photoshop’s desktop engine, upon which it will evolve with the guidance of users. Based on what I’ve heard from Adobe and seen from my limited use of the app, I believe the company truly is committed to building a more fully-featured version of Photoshop for the iPad; however, it doesn’t appear that users will be able to abandon their desktops anytime soon.

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Twitter iPad Apps Upgraded with Multiwindow Support, Keyboard Navigation

Twitterrific (left) and Twitter (right).

Twitterrific (left) and Twitter (right).

This fall has been a significant season for the iPad. While new hardware has been limited to an updated entry-level iPad, the software changes have more than made up for the dearth of hardware updates. September brought iPadOS, the new branch of iOS that packs advancements like multiwindowing, an upgraded Home screen, and more. Mere weeks after iPadOS launched, macOS Catalina enabled a host of iPad apps to be brought to the Mac, which in some cases meant those iPad apps became more Mac-like as a result.

Thanks to these recent software changes, a couple of key Twitter apps for iPad have been updated to offer key new functionality. Twitterrific has become the first Twitter client to add multiwindow support, enabling creating separate windows for different accounts or different views within the same account. The first-party Twitter app, meanwhile, has recently added extensive support for external keyboards, likely as a side benefit of the app making its way to the Mac. In both cases, the Twitter experience on iPad has been meaningfully improved in ways that power users will appreciate.

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Eternal City, Modern Photography: The iPhone 11 Pro in Rome

The Colosseum at night. Shot on iPhone 11 Pro using the wide lens, with night mode enabled. Unedited. Zoom in for details.

The Colosseum at night. Shot on iPhone 11 Pro using the wide lens, with night mode enabled. Unedited. Zoom in for details.

In many ways, the iPhone 11 Pro’s camera system feels like the culmination of over a decade’s worth of judicious, relentless improvements. Not only is the device’s camera the best and smartest Apple has ever shipped, but it also affords the most photographic freedom, allowing non-professional photographers like me to produce amazing shots with minimal effort.

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    macOS Catalina: The MacStories Review

    Ironically, Apple chose to name this year’s update to macOS after an island. Since the iPhone and iOS took off, macOS has sometimes felt like an island isolated from the rest of the company’s OSes, but the goal articulated by the company at WWDC this year was quite the opposite. Apple clearly telegraphed that change is coming to the Mac and it’s designed to bridge the user experiences between each of its platforms.

    To developers, that message came in the form of Catalyst and SwiftUI. Catalyst, which was previewed as an unnamed ‘Sneak Peek’ in 2018, is meant to make it easier for iPadOS developers to bring their apps to the Mac. SwiftUI has a similar longer-term goal of unifying and streamlining how developers build the interfaces for their apps across a range of devices, for everything from the Apple Watch to the Mac.

    The efforts to draw macOS in closer with Apple’s other operating systems run deeper than just developer tools though. macOS may have been the foundation on which iOS was built, but in the years that followed iOS’s introduction, the two OSes grew apart. Identically-named apps were developed on different schedules, which meant they rarely included the same features. Also, system-level functionality like System Preferences, which serves the same purpose as iOS’s Settings app, was unfamiliar, making Mac adoption unnecessarily hard for newcomers. Catalina is an attempt to address those kinds of inconsistent user experiences.

    With Catalina, Apple has taken clear, though not always successful, steps to bridge the divide between the Mac and iOS. App functionality has been realigned, System Preferences has been rearranged, and new features have been added to make it easier to move from one platform to the other.

    As with other transitional periods in the Mac’s history, this one isn’t going to be easy. However, because the change is driven by a fundamental change in computing, it’s also necessary. We live in a new climate where computing is now dominated by mobile devices. For many people, a smartphone is all the computing power they need day-to-day. That doesn’t mean there’s no longer a place for the Mac, but it’s clearly what’s driving the changes in Catalina.

    Apple could have chosen to ignore the shift of the ground beneath its feet and merely maintained macOS, making the kind of small incremental changes we’ve become accustomed to in recent years. However, not adapting is as deliberate a choice as change is, and it carries just as much or more uncertainty for the Mac as a platform because it risks irrelevance.

    The Mac isn’t in crisis, but it isn’t healthy either. Waiting until the Mac is on life support isn’t viable. Instead, Apple has opted to reimagine the Mac in the context of today’s computing landscape before its survival is threatened. The solution is to tie macOS more closely to iOS and iPadOS, making it an integrated point on the continuum of Apple’s devices that respects the hardware differences of the platform but isn’t different simply for the sake of difference.

    Transitions are inherently messy, and so is Catalina in places. It’s a work in process that represents the first steps down a new path, not the destination itself. The destination isn’t clear yet, but Catalina’s purpose is: it’s a bridge, not an island.

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    iPhone 11 Pro and Apple Watch Series 5 Impressions: The Best of Iteration

    The general expectation leading up to this year’s iPhone and Apple Watch debuts was that “boring” updates were in store. The iPhone, it was reported, would have an unattractive triple-camera system and little else in the way of improvements; some thought the Apple Watch might not get an update at all.

    When Apple officially introduced its new devices to the world, my own reactions were largely positive, though a little mixed. On paper, the latest iPhone and Apple Watch models offer less year-over-year improvements in quantity than Apple usually treats us to. But the advancements that are here – cameras and battery for the iPhone, always-on display for the Watch – are qualitatively huge.

    Apple is really good at making two key things: revolutionary products and iterative ones. Every now and then the company creates something that’s truly transformative, a product with undeniable cultural impact. The iPod, iPhone, and iPad are classic picks, but more recently AirPods and the iPhone X deserve similar recognition. However, in-between these giants sit a lot of iterative updates, where existing products get a little bit better. Stacked against the culture-shakers these iterative updates are comparatively less exciting, but they’re almost always objectively better products than their predecessors.

    The iPhone 11 and Apple Watch Series 5 lines aren’t revolutionary, but they may well be remembered as some of the best iterative products Apple has ever shipped.

    My early impression, after just a few days with the iPhone 11 Pro and Watch Series 5, is that this year’s updates have the potential to stand out over time for one main reason: they give users what we’ve all been asking for.

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    watchOS 6: The MacStories Review

    With last year’s release of the Apple Watch Series 4, it felt as though Apple had finally reached a point of equilibrium on the hardware side of the device. The Series 4 brought the first physical redesign, thinning the Watch out and stretching its slightly larger screen to the corners. It packed a processor that finally felt overpowered rather than underpowered, and it kept the Apple Watch’s all-day battery life going strong. The update rounded out with added health sensors for ECGs, background heart monitoring, Bluetooth 5 support, and a new speaker system. Those advancements joined the cellular capabilities from the Series 3, and have now been joined by the always-on display of the Series 5. I’m running out of feature requests for the Apple Watch.

    The hardware may now be in place, but as we all know hardware is only part of the story. On the software side, the Apple Watch found its footing two years ago, but had a lot of catching up to do to reach the level of maturity of its hardware. Iteration is Apple’s specialty, and their increasingly strong understanding of the Apple Watch’s purpose has made the software path clear. Last year’s watchOS 5 brought significant fitness and audio improvements, the addition of web content and more interactive notifications. This year’s update brings us even more.

    watchOS 6 flew under the radar at the packed and exciting WWDC keynote this June. It isn’t the most flashy update, but the Apple Watch had enough flashy updates in its early years to last a while longer. This is a year for iteration, and Apple has been iterating on all cylinders. watchOS 6 is a quiet giant, adding or redesigning more first-party apps at once than we’ve seen in years, dropping the largest batch of new watch faces since watchOS 1, providing a new way to track fitness over time, and kicking off a nascent foray into Apple Watch independence. Let’s see how Apple did.

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      Apple’s Reopened Fifth Avenue Flagship: A Photo Tour

      Today alongside the launch of the iPhone 11 line and Apple Watch Series 5, Apple reopened its long-under-construction Apple Fifth Avenue retail location. First closed in January 2017 and relocated to a temporary space nearby, the new Fifth Avenue opens as the largest Apple Store in the world; it also remains the only location open 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.

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