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CES: A Tour of the Most Interesting (and Strange) Tech Announcements

CES has been going strong all week with announcements of new gadgets: home automation gear, TVs, computers, and lots more. Many mobile phone makers and some big industry players sit out CES, but there is still plenty of news from companies big and small with new products and technologies to show off.

A lot of what gets hyped at CES is prototypes and concept devices that will never ship or will get delayed. Still, every year I find that CES is fascinating to study for the industry trends it reveals and the handful of gadgets I discover that I’d like to try.

After combing through hundreds of headlines and press releases, I’ve compiled a roundup of some of this week’s most compelling announcements. Feel free to skip around to the categories that you find most interesting using the table of contents below.

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Adapt, Episode 16: Having Fun with the iPad

On this week’s episode of Adapt:

Federico and Ryan ease into the new year by taking a break from iPad productivity and explaining how they use the device for fun. Plus a challenge recap, #AskAdapt, and more.

You can listen below (and find the show notes here), and don’t forget to send us questions using #AskAdapt and by tagging our Twitter account.

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Adapt, Episode 16

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Front and Center, a Mac Utility from John Siracusa and Lee Fyock

John Siracusa writes on Hypercritical about the new Mac utility he just released in partnership with Lee Fyock. Following the release of macOS Catalina and its lack of support for 32-bit apps, such as DragThing, Siracusa needed a new solution for restoring a classic Mac OS behavior that he didn’t want to lose.

In classic, when you click on a window that belongs to an application that’s not currently active, all the windows that belong to that application come to the front. In Mac OS X (and macOS), only the window that you clicked comes to the front.
[…]
I tried to get used to it, but I could not.

Front and Center is the name of Siracusa and Fyock’s creation. It’s a tiny app that re-enables the classic behavior mentioned above, while also providing the option of using shift-click to engage the modern default of selecting the clicked window only. With Front and Center, long-time Mac users can have both the classic Mac OS behavior they enjoy, and the benefits of macOS’ modern approach, all at once.

Front and Center is available on the Mac App Store for $2.99.

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Connected, Episode 276: Symbiosis, Osmosis, Whatever

On this week’s episode of Connected:

The boys kick of 2020 with a lot of follow-up including clarifying what being a Chairman means, a challenge for the Upgradies and a debate about the iPad Air, then conversations about LaunchCuts and Twitter’s iPad app.

You can listen below (and find the show notes here).

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Connected, Episode 276

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LaunchCuts Review: A Better Way to Organize Your Shortcuts with Folders, Advanced Search, and Custom Views

LaunchCuts' shortcuts view.

LaunchCuts’ shortcuts view.

Developed by Adam Tow, LaunchCuts is the latest entry in a series of meta-utilities designed to extend Apple’s Shortcuts app with new functionalities. Unlike Toolbox Pro and Pushcut, however, LaunchCuts is the most peculiar and niche I’ve tested insofar as it doesn’t provide Shortcuts with exclusive actions nor does it come with its own web service to deliver rich push notifications; instead, LaunchCuts’ sole purpose is to offer an alternative view for your shortcut library with folders and powerful search filters. If you have less than 20 shortcuts installed on your iPhone or iPad, you’re likely not going to get much benefit out of LaunchCuts’ advanced organizational tools; but if you’re like me and use hundreds of different shortcuts on a regular basis, and especially if your library has grown out of control over the past few years, you’re going to need the assistance of LaunchCuts to make sense of it all.

Like the aforementioned Shortcuts utilities, LaunchCuts was born of its developer’s frustration with the lack of folders in Shortcuts – a basic feature that is still bafflingly absent from the app in 2020. As I keep pointing out in my iOS reviews, I find Apple’s continuing reliance on a crude, one-level-deep grid for shortcuts perplexing at best – particularly when the app is so very clearly employed by professional users who want to accomplish more on their iPhones and iPads.

LaunchCuts was originally created by Tow as an advanced shortcut that let you tag and organize your shortcuts from within the Shortcuts app itself. I remember playing around with the original version of LaunchCuts and, although technically remarkable, I didn’t find much utility in it since it was limited by the UI constraints of Shortcuts; LaunchCuts was begging to become a fully-fledged app with a custom interface to take advantage of Tow’s original concept. Now that it’s a native app, LaunchCuts can fulfill Tow’s vision for taming cluttered and disorganized Shortcuts libraries in a way that wouldn’t have been possible as a shortcut – all while taking advantage of new features in iOS and iPadOS 13.

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Apple Announces Night Mode Photography Contest

About this time last year, Apple announced its first-ever ‘Shot on iPhone’ photography challenge judged by a panel of professional photographers and Apple employees. Apple is back with a new contest app this year asking users to submit their Night mode photos.

Through January 29th, Apple is taking submissions on Instagram, Twitter, and Weibo. To qualify, post your photos on Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #ShotoniPhone and #NightmodeChallenge and Weibo using #ShotoniPhone# and #NightmodeChallenge#.

Five winners will be picked by a panel of judges that include:

plus the following Apple executives and employees:

  • Phil Schiller
  • Kaiann Drance
  • Brooks Kraft
  • Jon McCormack
  • Are Duplessis

The five winning photos will be announced on March 4th on the Apple Newsroom. Apple says the images may also be used in digital campaigns, at stores, on billboards, and in photo exhibitions.

Night mode photography was a big part of Federico’s story on iPhone 11 Pro photography called Eternal City, Modern Photography: The iPhone 11 Pro in Rome. Here’s an outtake from that story that Federico submitted for the challenge:

For more on the contest and tips on shooting Night mode photos, check out Apple’s press release.


Defining Apple’s Decade

Benjamin Mayo of 9to5Mac has published an excellent journey down memory lane of Apple’s last decade:

Apple entered the 2010s just as the iPhone began to explode in popularity. The iPhone became the most successful consumer product, ever. Sales surged for another five years and still make up a majority of Apple’s revenues. However, we exit the decade with the iPhone making up a smaller portion of Apple’s business than ever before, as the company diversifies into strong lineups of wearables, tablets and services offerings.

But nothing is a simple straight line. Apple had to graduate through the passing of its founder, juggle relationships with an ever-expanding list of consumer and professional market segments, and adapt to the public attention and scrunity that only comes along as a consequence of being the biggest company in the world. This is a decade in Apple, on one page.

Mayo’s first Apple product was an iMac in 2010, so the timeframe of the decade lines up with his own initial interest in Apple, leading all the way to today, when he’s one of the most prominent Apple reporters. I always enjoy reading Mayo’s perspective on Apple, so it was especially fun getting to hear his personal takes of the biggest moments of the company’s past decade. If you want to spend time basking in the nostalgia of Apple’s last 10 years, Mayo’s story is a great way to do that.

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Apple Details 2019 App Store Stats and Recaps Other Services

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

In a press release today, Apple shared App Store revenue numbers for the 2019 holiday season, which set an all-time record for single day sales on New Year’s Day:

Since the App Store launched in 2008, developers have earned over $155 billion, with a quarter of those earnings coming from the past year alone. As a measure of the excitement going into 2020, App Store customers spent a record $1.42 billion between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, a 16 percent increase over last year, and $386 million on New Year’s Day 2020 alone, a 20 percent increase over last year and a new single-day record.

In addition to apps, Apple recapped its other services:

  • Apple Music, which added a time-synced lyrics feature that more than 50% of iOS 13 users have tried
  • TV+, which is available in over 100 countries
  • The TV app, which is available on Apple TV hardware, third-party TVs, and features over 30 channels
  • Apple Arcade
  • Apple News, which the company says has over 100 million monthly active users
  • Podcasts
  • Apple Card
  • Apple Pay
  • iCloud

More than 10 years later, the growth of the App Store is a story that is often overlooked. It’s remarkable to think that holiday sales are still setting records this long after the introduction of the App Store and after the pace of new device sales has slowed.


AppStories, Episode 144 – Getting More Out of Safari for iPadOS

This week on AppStories, we discuss the sort of sophisticated web apps that can be used with Safari on iPadOS 13 and share a bunch of tips and tricks based on Apple’s latest updates to Safari.

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