This week's sponsor

HabitMinder

The Healthy Habit Reminder and Tracker


The Original Apple TV: Ushering in a New Era of Entertainment

Today's Apple TV is its own full-fledged platform. While it is more expensive and less popular than other some other media streamers, the Apple TV has come into its own. The current device can stream 4K HDR content, play games and even be used as a calculator.

The original Apple TV didn't enjoy such a wide feature set, and it wasn't treated as a full-blown product by the company, which repeatedly talked about it as a "hobby."

To understand that attitude, I think it's important to go back to when Steve Jobs first previewed the device in September 2006.

Read more


SongShift 3.0 and Switching Between Apple Music and Spotify

For the better part of this year, I’ve been using both Spotify and Apple Music. In my opinion, each service does a few things exceptionally well, but, unfortunately, I can’t have all of them in a single music app.

Spotify’s discovery tools for both old and new songs are simply unparalleled in the industry: Discover Weekly continues to surprise me on a weekly basis just like mixtapes used to do. Spotify is everywhere (including my Amazon Echo); I like how it organizes releases on artist pages; and, it’s got a richer selection of user-generated playlists. Apple Music, on the other hand, looks much better than Spotify (I love Apple’s focus on album artworks and large photography), features built-in lyrics, is deeply integrated with the Apple ecosystem, and I’m a fan of the social feed launched with iOS 11. In short: Spotify is superior when it comes to discovery for music aficionados and integration with third-party hardware, but Apple Music is nicer and easier to use for iOS users. I can’t choose because I happen to have a foot in both camps.

Read more


Stranded Kitesurfer Used His Apple Watch to Call for Help

John Zilles, a 49-year-old who has been kiteboarding for 20 years, recently found himself stuck at sea after crashing about a mile off the coast of Ventura, California, an area known for great white sharks. Zilles told his story to the Daily Mail:

’I started thinking about all the great white shark sightings in our area, and although I realised I could probably swim in, I couldn't stop thinking about sharks - it was a real mind bender.

’I realized I had my watch - so called the Ventura Harbor Patrol, explained my situation and asked for help.'

The harbor patrol sent a boat, and Zilles spotted it, but the boat was heading in the wrong direction. Another quick call on his Apple Watch and Zilles was in the boat heading back to safety.

Permalink

iPhone X, OLED, and Dark Mode Battery Tests

Neil Hughes ran some battery tests on the iPhone X comparing standard white-background UIs against the “dark mode” generated by iOS 11’s Smart Invert Colors in Safari. The results are remarkable:

Reddit normally features a white background and black text, but with Apple's smart invert colors option enabled, the back of the screen is now black and the text is white. This is important because black pixels in an OLED are essentially "turned off" and consume far less power — a stark contrast from LCD displays, where the backlight must illuminate all pixels, including black ones.

After three hours with maximum brightness and smart invert colors enabled, the iPhone X battery dropped from 100 percent to just 85 percent.

We then ran the exact same test with an iPhone X running in normal mode — that is to say, Reddit was loaded on Safari with a white background and black test. With the backlight turned up to maximum, the battery drained from 100 percent down to 28 percent.

It’s an extreme comparison, but it proves how dark interfaces could be marketed as beneficial for the iPhone X’s battery life. I wonder if the long-awaited system-wide iOS dark mode could be presented as an energy efficiency feature next year?

(Related: as we mentioned on last week’s Connected, if you have an iPhone app with a custom dark mode, you’ll want to update it so it offers a “pure black” option on the iPhone X. It looks so much better than gray or dark blue.)

Permalink

Quip: Care for Your Teeth [Sponsor]

Behind the elegant design of the quip electric toothbrush is a mission to care for your teeth. Fixing bad habits makes a big impact on oral health, but too often, it’s ignored and glossed over by oral care products and services. The quip toothbrush changes that.

The quip brush has a beautiful slim design that makes other electric toothbrushes look like power tools by comparison. The slender body of the quip brush also makes it easy to take on the go when you travel.

There’s more to quip than its sleek looks though. The brush has sensitive vibrating bristles with 30-second pulses that guide you through a 2-minute brushing routine. There’s also a wire-free, suction-based wall mount that doubles as a carrying case for when you travel. Best of all, quip is affordable.

Brush heads wear out and if they’re used too long become unhygienic and ineffective. That’s why quip also offers a subscription plan that delivers a new brush head to your home every three months along with a AAA battery to keep it powered. For added convenience, you can even add a tube of quip toothpaste to your subscription. Subscribing is an effortless way to start a good habit by putting brush head replacement on autopilot.

We have a special deal just for MacStories readers. You can get your first brush head refill from quip for free by using this link. Start a good habit and take care of your teeth today with quip.

Our thanks to quip for sponsoring MacStories this week.



The Case for RSS

David Sparks makes a good point about the strengths of RSS compared to, say, getting your news from Twitter or Facebook:

RSS is so easy to implement that it's a slippery slope between having RSS feeds for just a few websites and instead of having RSS feeds for hundreds of websites. If you’re not careful, every time you open your RSS reader, there will be 1,000 unread articles waiting for you, which completely defeats the purpose of using RSS. The trick to using RSS is to be brutal with your subscriptions. I think the key is looking for websites with high signal and low noise. Sites that publish one or two articles a day (or even one to two articles a week) but make them good articles are much more valuable and RSS feed than sites that published 30 articles a day.

Unlike Sparks, only a couple of my friends have moved on from RSS (and are using Twitter for news), but I agree otherwise – I don’t want to spend any more time on Twitter than absolutely necessary. I cherish the ability to subscribe to my favorite websites independently from social networks.

One thing I’d add: it’s possible to subscribe to high-volume feeds (and keep them alongside low-noise ones) if you take advantage of filters and muted keywords. Modern RSS services such as Feedly, Inoreader, and NewsBlur all come with advanced filtering features that mute specific articles directly on the server, so they don’t get pushed to clients on iOS or macOS at all. If you want to subscribe to a lot of sources but automatically hide topics you don’t care about, this is the only way to go.

Permalink


The App Store Adds Weekend Deals Feature

Apple has introduced a new feature in the Today tab of the App Store called 'This Weekend Only.' Each Thursday, one app will offer an exclusive deal to users that lasts through Sunday.

The new feature is being kicked off with five deals instead of one:

The new promotion strikes me as a good way to help drive traffic to the App Store on weekends, which are slow sales days for many developers. It also makes sense to kick off the App Store’s new feature with apps from relatively large companies with broad appeal, but I hope that in the long run, smaller independent development shops are included too.