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Posts tagged with "iCloud"

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.


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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.


Apple Launches iCloud for Web Redesign in Beta

Last night our own Federico Viticci shared a discovery on Twitter, first noticed by Kyle Seth Gray, which is that Apple has quietly launched a beta version of a redesigned iCloud.com interface.

The old look for iCloud.com reflected the iOS 7 design era, while this new version, which is accessible by visiting beta.icloud.com, fits better with Apple’s modern design conventions. It also brings new functionality to the iPhone. While you can’t access the full slate of web apps on the iPhone like you can the iPad or Mac, Photos and Notes join Find iPhone in being available on the iPhone. Also of note: on devices that support the full range of iCloud web apps, the Reminders app has been redesigned to reflect its forthcoming iOS 13 version.

The web version of iCloud has long felt overlooked by Apple, so it’s nice to see it finally receive some attention. Though native apps still offer the best experience for users, it’s great to have the option of web access for important tools when needed.


How iOS Makes Good Password Practices Easier for Users

We’ve all been there. You’re signing up for a new service or creating an account for a new app, and you’re asked to pick a password. You know you should use a strong, random password, but in a rush to get started, you take the easy path and choose a weak, memorable password instead because it’s the path of least resistance.

Apple has been pushing back against those bad habits with new iOS features designed to combat password reuse by flipping the calculus on its head. In an excellent presentation given at PasswordsCon 2018 in Stockholm, Sweden last week, Apple engineer Ricky Mondello explains the iCloud Keychain features implemented in iOS since iOS 11 and the thinking behind them. He also provides tips and resources for web and app developers who want to integrate better with those features.

What I especially like about Mondello’s talk is the insight into the thought and effort that’s gone into making good passwords easy to create. It’s not something I’ve thought about much before, which I take as a sign that Apple’s Safari and iCloud Keychain engineers are succeeding.

The presentation is also fascinating from a design and user experience standpoint. As Mondello explains, people are ill-suited to create and remember random passwords. It’s a problem that’s right in a computer’s wheelhouse, but one that also requires users’ trust and an understanding of their habits to solve.

I recommend watching Mondello’s talk. There are a lot of interesting implementation details throughout the talk and insights into the thinking behind them, which are approachable whether you have a background in the topics covered or not.

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My Markdown Writing and Collaboration Workflow, Powered by Working Copy 3.6, iCloud Drive, and GitHub

For the past couple of years, I (and the rest of the MacStories team) have used Working Copy to store and collaborate on Markdown drafts for our articles. As I explained in a story from late 2016, even though Working Copy is a Git client primarily designed for programmers, it is possible to leverage the app’s capabilities to perform version control for plain text too. Each MacStories team member has a private GitHub repository where we store Markdown files of our articles; in the same repository, other writers can make edits to drafts and commit them to GitHub; this way, the author can then pull back the edited file and use Working Copy’s built-in diff tool to see what’s changed from the last version of the file and read comments left by whoever edited the draft.1

As I mentioned two years ago, this system takes a while to get used to: GitHub has a bit of overhead in terms of understanding the correct terminology for different aspects of its file management workflow, but Working Copy makes it easier by abstracting much of the complexity involved with committing files, pushing them, and comparing them. This system has never failed us in over two years, and it has saved us dozens of hours we would have otherwise spent exchanging revised versions of our drafts and finding changes in them. With Working Copy, we can use the text editors we each prefer and, as long as we overwrite the original copies of our drafts and keep track of commits, the app will take care of merging everything and displaying differences between versions. From a collaboration standpoint, using Working Copy and GitHub for file storage and version control has been one of the best decisions I made in recent years.

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Where’s the iCloud Storage Bump for the Rest of Us?

Dan Moren, writing for Six Colors on today’s announcement of 200 GB of free iCloud storage for schools:

Look, it’s lovely that Apple has decided to give 200GB of free iCloud storage to any Apple ID associated with a teacher or student. It’s a nice gesture, and one that probably makes things a lot easier for those in school environments.

But, come on, Apple—you’re really going to leave the rest of us at 5GB?

The standard 5GB of free iCloud storage has been in place for years now, and, frankly, it’s starting to wear thin. When most iOS devices come in 32GB configurations at the smallest, and many start at 64GB, 5GB feels pretty paltry. Especially when the next step in the upgrade tier is to pay $0.99 for 50GB of storage space. I realize Services has become a moneymaker for Apple, but it just feels cheap.

I hope that increasing free storage for education is the first step towards more free iCloud for everyone this year. I wouldn’t expect non-education customers to get 200 GB for free, but the measly 5 GB of free storage have become just as user-hostile as 16 GB iPhones used to be. There has to be a better solution in between.

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Messages in iCloud Returns in iOS 11.3 Beta

When this morning’s news regarding iOS 11.3 made no mention of Messages in iCloud, many feared the feature was delayed indefinitely. But with the release of the first developer beta, it’s now been confirmed that Messages in iCloud is available in 11.3. Guilherme Rambo reports for 9to5Mac:

With the release of iOS 11.3 beta 1 and corresponding developer release notes, Apple announced that iOS 11.3 includes the Messages in iCloud feature. Messages will prompt users to turn on Messages in iCloud on first launch after upgrading to beta 1. Users with two-factor authentication and iCloud Backups enabled will get Messages in iCloud enabled automatically.

It’s not certain that Messages in iCloud will make its way into the public release of iOS 11.3, but its presence in the first beta is a positive sign at least.

First announced at WWDC last June as an iOS 11 feature, Messages in iCloud is just what it sounds like: all your Messages across all your devices are stored in iCloud and kept in sync. The feature was present throughout the iOS 11 beta cycle last summer, but was removed before iOS 11’s public release. I never had any issues with it during the beta season, but clearly some users did, causing Apple to delay the feature until its reappearance now.

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iOS and macOS Text Replacement Gaining CloudKit Syncing Soon

There’s been quite a stir over the last week regarding an area of the Apple cloud ecosystem where syncing has remained unreliable for years. Brian Stucki wrote a detailed post on the matter, which John Gruber linked to with echoing sentiments. Today, however, Gruber followed up on his post with an exciting update:

Good news related to yesterday’s item regarding the fact that text replacement shortcuts have never synced reliably between Macs or iOS devices: an Apple spokesperson emailed me to say they checked with the team, and an update that moves text replacement syncing to CloudKit should be rolling out to iOS 11 and MacOS 10.13 High Sierra users in the “next month or so”.

I use text replacement every day across my iOS devices, and haven’t dealt with syncing issues myself, but it’s great to hear that this long-standing problem should soon be put to rest for everyone else. Recent history shows that once a cloud product moves to CloudKit, syncing issues disappear almost entirely – hopefully that will be the case here as well.

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Amazon’s Alexa Adds Integration with iCloud Calendars

Mitchel Broussard of MacRumors shares an announcement from Amazon about a new Alexa skill for iCloud Calendar:

Starting today, you can now link your Apple iCloud Calendar to Alexa. To do this, iCloud Calendar customers can simply link their account in the settings tab in the Alexa app. Once linked, just say, “Alexa, what’s on my calendar today?” or “Alexa, add lunch with Sarah at noon to my calendar.”

iCloud Calendar support has been a top requested feature from Alexa customers, and we’re thrilled to bring this to Alexa devices in US, UK and Germany today.

It’s nice to start seeing some of Apple’s cloud offerings integrate with third-party services. Today’s Alexa integration follows IFTTT’s integrations earlier this year with iCloud Calendar and the App Store. Services as basic as iCloud Calendar shouldn’t be restricted to Apple-made devices, so I’m thankful to see Apple opening up – even if it’s just a little bit.

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