THIS WEEK'S SPONSOR:

Funn Media

Jump-Start Your New Year with WaterMinder, FitnessView, and Calory


Posts tagged with "iCloud"

Apple Previews Redesigned iCloud.com Website

Today, Apple launched a preview of changes coming to iCloud.com, the website that allows users to access their iCloud data and apps, including Mail messages, notes, photos, tasks, and more. The new card-like UI is available to anyone who wants to try it by visiting beta.icloud.com and logging in with your Apple ID.

The cards are laid out in a grid with a rectangular and square tile per row on larger screens and a single column of cards on narrow screens like the iPhone. When you first launch the preview page, you’ll see your Apple ID profile picture, email address, and type of iCloud account, plus several app tiles.

iCloud.com's new profile page.

iCloud.com’s new profile page.

However, other than your profile tile, everything on the preview page is fully customizable. Currently, there are tiles available for Mail, Photos, Notes, Reminders, iCloud Drive, Calendar, Numbers, Pages, and Keynote. Contacts and Find My are also accessible from the preview page but don’t have their own tiles.

iCloud.com's menu for accessing apps and other features.

iCloud.com’s menu for accessing apps and other features.

Editing and arranging iCloud.com's tiles.

Editing and arranging iCloud.com’s tiles.

To customize the page, select the button in the top right corner that looks like a grid of icons, and the webpage’s UI will go into a jiggle mode similar to when you long-press on an iPhone or iPad’s Home Screen. From here, you can rearrange existing tiles, remove ones you don’t want, and add new tiles.

Each tile works a lot like a Home Screen widget, displaying recent data stored in that app. Click on the tile, and the full web app opens. Clicking on your profile tile offers details about your iCloud subscription and links to related actions. The same button you use to access the preview’s customization features also provides access to all of the iCloud web apps, iCloud+ features, like Hide My Email, and more. Finally, there’s also a dedicated ‘Plus’ button for creating new items or documents in many of the iCloud web apps without the need to launch the associated app first.

My rearranged page.

My rearranged page.

I like the preview’s design a lot. It beats the static grid of web app icons of the existing site, which is still available if you don’t use the preview, by providing an overview of recent data in each apps. I’m also a fan of the page’s customization tool, which makes it simple to organize the page with an emphasis on the apps you use most.

Based on my very limited testing, the preview page is quite stable too. I did run into an error accessing my iCloud Drive documents, but that’s been it so far. Once finalized, the new iCloud.com page is going to be a very nice upgrade for anyone who needs to access their account and data from a device that’s not their own, such as a work PC.

To give it a try yourself, go to iCloud.com, log in with your Apple ID, and use the link above your profile picture on the existing page design, or go straight to beta.icloud.com and log in there.


Apple Music Launches on Xbox and Windows Photos Adds iCloud Photo Library Support

Apple Music was released today on the Xbox Store as a free download. I’ve had a chance to test the app briefly on my Xbox Series X, and the experience is very close to that of the Music app on the Apple TV.

Upon downloading the app, new users can take advantage of a free month of Apple’s music streaming service. There are multiple ways for existing subscribers to log in, too, including by using a QR code that opens a web page and asks you to sign in with your Apple ID. Once I signed in, the app on my Xbox refreshed, and I was good to go.

If you’ve ever used the Apple Music app on the Apple TV, you’ll be right at home on the Xbox version of the app. The UI is nearly identical from the ways you can interact with the service’s catalog of music to the Now Playing screen. It is my understanding that the Music app, along with the TV app, will be coming to Windows next year too.

Some recent photos from my iCloud Photo Library in the Windows Photos app.

Some recent photos from my iCloud Photo Library in the Windows Photos app.

Your iCloud Photo Library is also available in the Windows 11 Photos app now, with support for both images and video. To connect the two, you need to install iCloud for Windows on your PC and choose to sync your iCloud photos library. I gave it a try on my AYANEO Next Pro and had no trouble linking Microsoft’s app to my iCloud Photo Library.

The number of devices on which you can access Apple’s media services has expanded significantly over the past few years, with availability expanding from Android devices to smart TVs and other platforms. With Xbox and Windows PC integration, that expansion has taken another big leap forward, making those services available to a much wider audience.


Setting Up a Custom Domain for iCloud Email

Custom domains in iCloud Mail.

Custom domains in iCloud Mail.

Following a tip by one of our members in the Club MacStories+ Discord server last night (if you haven’t joined yet, now’s a great time to do so), I came across the settings page on the beta.icloud.com website to configure a custom domain and email address with iCloud Mail. This is the direct link to the settings page; it was working last night, but it seems to be having some issues today.

Custom domains in iCloud Mail is a feature Apple announced for the “rebranded” iCloud+ service at WWDC, which I’ve been curious to try for two reasons: I have a personal domain laying around I can use to test this, and iCloud Mail – unlike Gmail – supports proper push notifications on iOS. Given the beta nature of this feature, I am not recommending you try this with your primary email address right now; I set it up with a secondary email address I barely used before.

Read more


Craig Federighi Provides Deeper Insight Into iCloud Private Relay

Fast Company’s Michael Grothaus interviewed Craig Federighi this week regarding the suite of new privacy features which Apple unveiled at WWDC. The article includes some notable technical details on how iCloud Private Relay works under the hood. One of the most interesting — and somewhat unfortunate — revelations is that iCloud Private Relay will only work from Safari. Users of other browsers are out of luck here.

The reason for this restriction has to do with Apple’s commitment to unassailable privacy, which happens by ensuring that no party can ever access both your IP address and your destination URL. From what I can gauge, this is actually a three-step process which looks something like this:

  • From Safari, you navigate to a particular URL. Safari encrypts this destination URL locally and then forwards your request to Apple’s iCloud Private Relay servers.
  • Apple’s servers anonymize your IP address so that it can’t be traced back to you, then forward the request to a trusted third-party’s servers.
  • The third-party decrypts the destination URL, then forwards the final request (decrypted URL plus anonymized IP address) to the destination.

Read more


Apple Launches Service for Transferring iCloud Photos and Videos to Google Photos

As reported today by Juli Clover at MacRumors, Apple is now allowing iCloud Photos users to transfer a copy of their data to Google Photos. This joins the growing suite of tools provided on Apple’s Data and Privacy webpage, which also include downloading copies of your data, correcting your data, and deactivating or deleting your account.

As described in a new Apple Support document on this topic, the iCloud Photos transfer process does not delete your photos and videos from iCloud, it just copies a duplicate of the data to Google Photos. Clover notes:

The transfer process takes between three and seven days, with Apple verifying that the request was made by you. To do the transfer, you must have two-factor authentication turned on for your Apple ID account and you must have a Google ‌Photos‌ account with enough storage to complete the transfer.

Further details over at MacRumors.

Permalink

Apple Recaps Its 2020 Services, Including the App Store’s Record-Breaking Holiday Season

In a press release today, Apple provided an update on its services. According to Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Internet Software and Services:

Now more than ever before, customers around the world have found inspiration and value in the breadth and quality of Apple’s services, which have impacted their lives in big and small ways every day. We’re incredibly optimistic about where we’re headed, and we believe that the opportunities for developers and the creative community are endless, as are the positive and meaningful benefits to our customers.

Among the highlights Apple shared are App Store revenue numbers for the 2020 holiday season, which were greater than 2019 for the same period and once again set an all-time record for single-day sales on New Year’s Day:

The trend continued over the holiday season, with App Store customers spending $1.8 billion on digital goods and services over the week between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, driven largely by spending on games. Customers ushered in 2021 by setting a new single-day spending record of over $540 million on New Year’s Day.

Apple also noted that developers have earned more than $200 billion since the inception of the App Store in 2008 and that it kicked off the App Store Small Business Program at the end of 2020.

In addition to apps, Apple recapped its other services:

  • Apple Music, which added several new features in 2020 that Apple says have been used by more than 90% of iOS 14 users
  • The Apple TV App, which debuted on new smart TVs and videogame consoles in 2020 and is now available on over 1 billion screens in more than 100 countries
  • TV+, which gained a dedicated tab in the TV app and was nominated for 159 awards, receiving 45
  • Apple News, which added local news for certain cities, included special coverage of the pandemic, the racial justice movement, and the US election, and added audio to News+ in 2020
  • Fitness+, which debuted just before the New Year
  • Apple Pay, which Apple says is accepted by more than 90% of US stores, 85% of UK stores, and 99% of Australian stores
  • Apple Arcade, which now has more than 140 games with games that have received more than 50 award nominations
  • Apple Books, which has over 90 million monthly active users
  • Apple Podcasts, which is available in 175 countries and 100 languages
  • iCloud, 85% of whose users have enabled two-factor authentication

Every year I’m struck that the App Store continues to set holiday season records for sales. The success of the App Store has been nothing short of remarkable, but as Apple’s press release demonstrates, Apple’s current services story today extends far beyond apps.


Apple One Subscription Bundles Are Now Available

Today, Apple launched its previously-announced Apple One subscription bundles, which offer the following three combinations of services:

  • Individual – Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and 50GB of iCloud storage for $14.95
  • Family – Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, and 200GB of shared iCloud storage for $19.95 for up to six family members
  • Premier – Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade, Fitness+, Apple News+, and 2TB of shared iCloud storage for $29.95 for up to six family members

Compared to paying for each service separately, the Individual plan saves users $6, the Family plan saves $8, and the Premier plan has the greatest savings at $25 but is only available in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia because News+ is limited to those countries. Apple is also offering a 30-day free trial and 3% cash back if you use the Apple Card.

The Apple One bundle signup flow.

The Apple One bundle signup flow.

You can currently sign up for an Apple One bundle by going to the App Store on an iOS or iPadOS device and tapping your profile picture in the top right corner of the screen. Tap on your profile at the top of the next screen and then Subscriptions, where you should find a banner promoting Apple One.

Moving iCloud Storage from one Apple ID to the another.

Moving iCloud Storage from one Apple ID to the another.

If like me, you have separate Apple IDs for iCloud and media purchases, you will be asked to move your storage plan to the Apple ID you use for iCloud, which cancels the old iCloud Storage subscription.

Signing up for the Premier tier was a no-brainer as someone who already paid for 2TB of storage, a Family Apple Music subscription, and Apple Arcade. News+ isn’t something I was willing to pay for separately, but it’s nice to have, and I’m very interested in trying Fitness+ as the weather gets colder here in Chicago, making outdoor walks and runs more difficult.


Apple One: The Long-Awaited Services Bundle Is Coming Soon in Three Tiers

Today during an event in which Apple revealed new Apple Watch and iPad models, the company also had some big services news to share: to increase adoption of the company’s growing slate of services, a new Apple One bundle will be launching soon to bring together multiple paid services at a discounted price.

Although Apple One doesn’t carry an official release date yet besides simply ‘fall,’ Apple did detail the breakdown of pricing and included services across three different Apple One tiers:

  • Individual: Includes Apple Music, TV+, Arcade, and 50 GB of iCloud storage for an individual at $14.95/month, a savings of $6/month.
  • Family: Also includes Apple Music, TV+, and Arcade, but with 200 GB of iCloud storage and Family Sharing for all services, at $19.95/month for savings of $8/month.
  • Premier: This is the big bundle, including Apple Music, TV+, Arcade, News+, the newly announced Fitness+, as well as 2 TB of iCloud storage for $29.95/month, a savings of $25/month.

The Individual and Family tiers of Apple One will be launching in over 100 countries to reach the widest number of users possible. Premier, however, since it includes services like News+ which are only available in limited territories, will only be available in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia at launch.

When Apple One launches, users will be able to try any of the three tiers with a 30-day free trial for services that they aren’t already paying for. It’s also worth noting that according to Apple’s website, Fitness+ likely won’t be available until after Apple One debuts, since it carries a launch window of ‘Late 2020’ while Apple One is ‘Coming this fall.’

Apple One’s tiered structure makes a lot of sense, and the savings seem pretty enticing, especially for the Premier plan. As someone who already subscribes to every Apple service, Premier will be a no-brainer to me as I’ll gain Fitness+ and a higher iCloud storage plan for less than the $38/month I’m paying right now.


You can follow all of our September event coverage through our September 2020 event hub, or subscribe to the dedicated RSS feed.


GoodNotes Launches iCloud Document Collaboration

One of the tech trends I expect has been accelerated by the current state of the world is a demand for collaboration features in software. On Apple’s platforms the company offers its native iCloud collaboration features that apps can adopt, and which are also available in first-party apps like Notes, Reminders, and the iWork suite. While iCloud doesn’t provide the kind of instant, real-time collaboration found with a service like Google Docs, the undisputed king of this domain, it’s nonetheless a solid option that provides valuable utility in apps that support it.

The latest app to add iCloud collaboration is GoodNotes, which in today’s version 5.5 enables you to share documents with other GoodNotes users so you can work together in the same document at once. The way this works is simple: from your documents library, tapping a document’s title will open a context menu where Collaborate is a new option; or, while working in a document, tapping the share icon will also reveal the Collaborate option. Like other apps supporting iCloud collaboration, the feature works by generating a link which grants collaborators access to the shared files, provided they have the source app installed. In this case, anyone who has the link can access the file. Once a document has been shared, it will be badged with a special icon in your library, and all shared documents are additionally housed in a new Shared tab in GoodNotes’ navigation bar.

Collaboration means that multiple people work in a document at once making their own annotations and changes, though there will regularly be a delay of 15-30 seconds before changes appear for all users. As such, GoodNotes’ collaboration doesn’t serve as a replacement for more real-time solutions such as collaborative whiteboard apps, but rather it’s better suited for situations where changes are made over an extended period of time. For example, sharing meeting notes before or after a meeting takes place to get feedback from your team, or letting multiple people annotate a draft-in-progress. As an app, GoodNotes offers tools for a range of use cases in areas of business, education, or personal uses, so there will likely be lots of scenarios where the new collaboration option is valuable despite lacking real-time updates. When there is an update to a shared document, you’ll be notified via a blue badge accompanying the document in your library, which can also inform you of which page in the document received changes.

John and I used different colors to indicate who made which annotations.

John and I used different colors to indicate who made which annotations.

Besides the slow sync time, another key limitation I discovered in my testing is that GoodNotes doesn’t offer a way to identify who made which annotations in a document. Unlike an app like Apple Notes, where you can choose to highlight the text written by each collaborator, there’s no such equivalent feature built-in here. What this means is that if you want to know who is responsible for certain notes or changes, you’ll need to coordinate with collaborators ahead of time and ask them to use specific colors so you know who is who, or else everyone will need to find a different identifying method such as initialing every annotation. Hopefully this drawback will be resolved in a future update. Finally, it’s also worth noting that collaboration features currently don’t work for managed Apple IDs, such as those commonly employed in schools.

Collaboration is such an important feature in 2020, and Apple’s current APIs for iCloud collaboration have been adopted by so few apps, that it’s always nice to see a new one add it. The limitations aren’t great, but my hope is that today’s release should be considered more a 1.0 of collaboration rather than the final version. If GoodNotes’ team (or Apple, via API improvements) can cut down on the lag between changes syncing among collaborators, and can offer a native way to know who made which changes, collaboration could become a key differentiator for the app. Even without those potential enhancements though, in 2020 the addition of collaboration is a valuable asset for any app, and GoodNotes is no exception.