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Connected, Episode 147: I Wish We Could Be Friends in Real Life

This week: HomeKit changes coming in iOS 11, our approaches to running betas and Business Chat in iMessage.

On this week’s Connected, more on running the first beta of iOS 11 on our devices and interesting changes coming to iMessage next year. You can listen here.

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iPhone App Size Is Increasing at a Breakneck Pace

According to a Sensor Tower report, the total space required for the top 10 most installed iPhone apps has increased more than 1000% since May 2013, increasing from 164 MB to a whopping 1.8 GB. During that period, Apple has raised the maximum app size from 2 GB to 4 GB and the minimum storage capacity of iPhones to 32 GB, but the size of the most popular iPhone apps has far outstripped those increases. iOS 11 will address the issue in part, with a feature that can offload apps that aren’t used often, while saving settings and user data.

Sensor Tower explains that,

We see the often sudden growth in size exhibited by apps such as Facebook and Snapchat as directly tied to the intense competition between them, which necessitates a steady rollout of new and more space-intensive features. Of course, some apps have likely grown in size simply due to a reduced need (or perception of a need) for optimization.

I'm sure that competition and perception play a role in the increases noted by Sensor Tower, but it would also be interesting to see how deep this trend extends beyond the ten most popular iPhone apps. I suspect it runs deeper than many people realize. Scrolling through the Update tab of the App Store, I have many recent updates on my iPhone that exceed 100 MB, including Apple’s own Keynote, which is 675 MB.

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The JPEG Format’s Days May Be Numbered

Kelly Thompson writes for 500px about Apple's upcoming transition from JPEG to the HEVC-based HEIF for photos across all its platforms:

JPEG is 25 years old and showing its age. Compression has become a big deal as we’ve moved to 4K and HDR video, and HEVC was developed to compress those huge video streams. Luckily HEVC also has a still image profile. The format doesn’t just beat JPEG, JPEG 2000, JPEG XR, and WebP—it handily crushes them. It claims a 2 to 1 increase in compression over JPEG at similar quality levels. In our tests, we’ve seen even better levels, depending on the subject of the image.

By using it internally on the camera, it means storing twice as many images in the same space. People with full iPhones are weeping with joy.

Think about it for a second—if we could reduce every picture delivered on the web by two times and have it look the same (or better)… game changer.

A move away from JPEG is significant, but Apple clearly has good reason for making the transition now. The recent massive increases of photos taken by the average user have led to persistently-scarce storage space. Apple has responded in the past year by increasing the base storage of new iPhones and iPads, but storage bumps are only a bandaid fix – adopting HEIF should make a long-term difference.

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IKEA to Launch Augmented Reality iOS App in the Fall

At WWDC, Craig Federighi demoed ARKit, Apple's new augmented reality API and mentioned that Apple was teaming up with IKEA on AR. The collaboration was mentioned again recently by Tim Cook in an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek.

Now in an interview with Digital.di, Michael Valdsgaard, Digital Transformation Manager for Ikea's parent company, has provided further details of its upcoming AR app:

This will be the first augmented reality app that allows you to make reliable buying decisions.

IKEA has big plans for the app:

At launch, 500-600 products will be in the app. In future, it will play a key role in new product lines.

According to Valdsgaard,

When we launch new products, they will come first in the AR app.

Based on the interview, IKEA and Apple feel like a natural fit. IKEA has hundreds of 3D models ready to use with ARKit and Apple has a huge install base of iOS users for IKEA's app. Moreover, IKEA can help demonstrate the types of applications that AR can enable beyond the gaming industry.

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Niantic Gives Pokémon GO Gyms a Makeover and Adds a New Raid Battle Feature

Niantic announced a major update to Pokémon GO today, including new gym gameplay mechanics and a feature called Raid Battle. Gym gameplay has been modified with a focus on how gyms are defended by controlling teams. Each gym will have six permanent slots, each of which must be populated by a different Pokémon.

Niantic is adding a new motivation system too. Over time and the course of battles, Pokémon will lose motivation, making them easier to defeat by rival trainers. Pokémon that lose all of their motivation will leave the gym and be returned to their trainers the next time they are defeated in battle. To maintain motivation, teams that control a gym can feed their Pokémon Berries, which should increase player interaction with the game.

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Control Any Computer from Your Mac or iOS Device with Screens [Sponsor]

Screens by Edovia makes it easy to control any computer from a Mac or iOS device no matter where you are in the world. Whether you left an important file on your home computer that you need while you’re at work, or have a relative thousands of miles away who needs tech support, Edovia’s Screens app for Mac and iOS has you covered.

Screens is as secure, fast, and reliable as it is easy to set up and use. Not only is the connection to your remote computer secured end-to-end, but Screens includes Curtain Mode, which obscures the screen of your remote computer so no one walking by it while you’re connected can see what’s on your screen. Screens can also handle multiple displays attached to your remote computer, showing them all at once or just the ones you choose to view. If you provide tech support for friends and family, Screens makes that process simpler too by offering a free download that anyone you are helping can use so you can take control of their computer as you troubleshoot their problems.

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Our thanks to Edovia for sponsoring MacStories this week.


Game Day: Framed 2

In 2014, Melbourne-based Loveshack released Framed, a comic book-style puzzle game that requires manipulation of panels to guide the main character through a noir spy story. The game struck a chord for its novel combination of puzzles, narrative, and hip, silhouetted spy style. This week, Loveshack released Framed 2, an excellent prequel to Framed that delivers more of what made the original version a hit, but as part of a deeper and more refined experience.

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Apple Hires Sony Executives to Lead Video Programming Efforts

Apple has announced that Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg are joining the company to lead the company’s worldwide video programming efforts as part of Eddie Cue’s team:

“Jamie and Zack are two of the most talented TV executives in the world and have been instrumental in making this the golden age of television,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services. “We have exciting plans in store for customers and can’t wait for them to bring their expertise to Apple — there is much more to come.”

Erlicht and Van Amburg were responsible for hits such as Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, The Crown, Rescue Me, and more while at Sony Pictures Television. Apple has been ramping up its video production efforts for quite some time now and if there was any remaining doubt that the company is serious about getting into original content creation, the hiring of Erlicht and Van Amberg should put those doubts to rest.

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