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Posts tagged with "iOS 10"

A Computer for Everything: One Year of iPad Pro

I wasn't sure I needed a 12.9-inch iPad when Apple announced the iPad Pro in September 2015. And yet, over a year later, the iPad Pro is, by far, the best computer I've ever owned. I've never felt so satisfied with any other Apple device before – but the transition wasn't easy.

After years spent adapting what I learned from the Mac to bring it to iOS, what I found on the other side was a more focused, efficient way of working and communicating with people. The iPad Pro accelerated my move to an iOS-only setup; today, I genuinely don't know how to perform certain tasks on a Mac anymore.

I use my iPad Pro for everything. It's my writing machine and favorite research tool, but I also rely on it to organize my finances, play games, read books and watch movies, program in Python and Workflow, and manage two successful businesses. While I've been advocating for such multi-purpose use of the iPad platform for a while, the iPad Pro elevated the threshold of possibilities, reaching an inflection point that has pushed others to switch to an iPad as their primary computer as well.

Much of the iPad's strength lies in iOS and its app ecosystem. If Apple were to stop making iPads, I'd still prefer to work on a device that runs iOS rather than macOS. iOS is where app innovation happens on a regular basis with developers one-upping each other in terms of what software can achieve; I also prefer the structure and interactions of iOS itself. The iPad Pro is the purest representation of iOS: it's a computer that can transform into anything you need it to be.

Even if this discussion was settled a long time ago, it bears repeating: millions of people today like working on iOS more than they do on macOS, and the iPad Pro is the best machine to run iOS. There is no sarcastic subtext about the Mac here, which is still a fantastic environment that many Apple users love and need for their line of work. The Mac and the iPad can coexist in a market where customers believe one is superior to the other. I prefer working on the iPad; others like their Macs more. And that's fine because, ultimately, the Apple ecosystem as a whole grows stronger and we all reap the benefits.

Over the past year of daily iPad Pro usage, I've made it my personal goal to optimize my iPad workflows as much as possible. This is one of the best aspects of the iOS platform: competition between developers is fierce and you can always choose between different apps to get work done – apps that are improved on a regular basis and are constantly updated for the latest iOS technologies. With enough curiosity and patience, iOS rewards you with the discovery of new ways to work and save time.

Since my last iPad story in February, I've taken a hard look at my entire iPad setup and rethought the parts that weren't working. I tried new apps, created new automations, and optimized every weak spot I could find. I improved how I collaborate with my teammates and produce weekly content for Club MacStories members. Thanks to the time I invested in understanding and fine-tuning my iPad Pro, I was able to embark on more projects, double MacStories' growth, and manage a larger team.

As a result, my iPad Pro today is noticeably more capable than it was a year ago – all without the need for a hardware refresh.

Here's what I've done.

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    TV App Review

    Today Apple released tvOS 10.1 and iOS 10.2, both of which bring several additions to the operating systems. Chief among all additions, the clear centerpiece of these updates is a brand new app called TV. When Tim Cook announced this app onstage earlier this fall, he plainly stated its purpose: TV exists to create a unified TV experience, one place to access all TV shows and movies.

    Does it succeed? Is this the best television experience available today?

    Before answering those questions, it's important to consider the history of underwhelming television endeavors that brought Apple to this point.

    Steve Jobs introduced the first Apple TV set-top box over ten years ago, in September 2006. That product unveiling came at the tail end of a keynote focused on the iPod and iTunes, where Jobs announced the additions of Movies and TV Shows to the iTunes Store. At its birth, the Apple TV was not meant to revolutionize television; it was made to support the iTunes ecosystem Apple was building.

    Throughout its first three iterations, the Apple TV was never a hallmark product like the iPod, Mac, or iPhone; it was simply a hobby for the company. It was Apple dipping its toes in the TV market. But the fourth generation Apple TV represented a shift. With modern hardware, a new operating system dubbed tvOS, and a vision that the future of TV is apps, Apple dove full force into the television market. It set out to create the best TV experience possible.

    The newly released TV app is a significant step forward in realizing that goal.

    TV is intended to address a modern issue. While the future of television may be apps, up until now Apple's implementation of that vision has been lacking; it's been lacking because the more video apps you have, the more navigating it requires to find the content you love. More time navigating means less time watching. TV was built to solve this problem.

    The TV app on tvOS and iOS centralizes content from a wide array of video apps in one place, presenting that content in a simple and familiar interface. No one wants to juggle an assortment of video apps, jumping from one app to another to find the content they're looking for. We've all learned to tolerate it, but none of us wants it. So Apple built TV to be the new hub of our video-watching life.

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    iOS 10 and Default Apps

    Kirk McElhearn, writing for Macworld, returns to the issue of iOS not having the ability to set different default apps:

    We’re at iOS 10, and Apple still hasn’t allowed users to make these choices. It seems ridiculous that, with a mature operating system, we’re still locked into Apple’s default apps. It’s not rocket science to make these changes; after all, there are protocols that funnel requests to specific handlers, the same way they do on the Mac. Let us choose the apps we want to use: It’s time to let iOS users have the same freedom of choice as Mac users.

    I've argued in favor of third-party default apps many times in the past (see 'Personalization' here). Clearly, this isn't a technical problem per se; I think Apple is more concerned about the strategic and security implications of default apps.

    Opening up system default apps to any third-party app could result in users choosing alternatives for Apple Music, Maps, and Photos/Camera (among others). These apps are key to Apple's ecosystem of services and iPhone experience as a whole. They are essential differentiators, unlike, say, TextEdit or Calendar. The comparison between default apps on macOS and iOS only goes so far – I believe Apple sees certain iPhone apps as more important than their Mac counterparts and critical to controlling the iOS ecosystem.

    Should Apple allow a third-party to replace the Health app? What about iMessage (a new platform inside iOS) or FaceTime? Bringing user-configurable default apps to iOS isn't as easy as flipping a switch – there are ramifications that go beyond opening .txt files in an alternative text editor on macOS.

    I think there should be the option to set different defaults for some iOS apps, and I think we will get such feature, albeit in a limited fashion. Look at SiriKit and the rollout of a few domains in iOS 10.0; that's a good indicator of how Apple tends to tackle these problems. Different default apps would be welcome for iPad productivity (especially the web browser and email client), but I'd be surprised if Apple rolled out extensive support to change just about any default system app on iOS.

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    iOS 10.2 Beta Brings New Emoji, Wallpapers, and More

    Apple has released the first iOS 10.2 beta to developers. The update includes:

    • new Unicode 9.0 emoji support (for a full list of the new emoji, check out this post on Emojipedia);
    • redesigns of existing emoji;
    • three new wallpapers, previously seen in Apple’s marketing materials for iOS 10;
    • a new celebration screen effect in Messages;
    • a widget for Apple’s built-in Video app;
    • a setting in the Music app to display star ratings that does not affect Apple Music 'For You' recommendations; and
    • a setting to maintain the Apple Camera app’s settings between uses.

    New wallpapers.

    New wallpapers.

    New Camera settings, Celebration screen effect, and Video widget.

    New Camera settings, Celebration screen effect, and Video widget.

    The Music app's settings include star ratings.

    The Music app's settings include star ratings.


    Apple Reveals Balloons Ad

    Apple released another advertisement in its 'practically magic' series, focusing on the new effects that can be used with Messages. 'Balloons' begins with a single red balloon floating out the window of a house. The balloon travels across landscapes, through forests, swamps, and across a large body of water. Eventually, it's joined by a second balloon under a rusted structure.

    When the camera pulls back, it becomes apparent that the balloons are in Chicago. As the camera follows the balloons, they pass by several Chicago landmarks, including an 'L' train, the Chicago Board of Trade, and finally, the Chicago River near the Wrigley Building.

    The scene cuts to an office where a woman is working. Balloons begin to blow into an open window as she receives an iMessage wishing her a happy birthday, which is sent with Messages' new balloons effect, echoing the scene surrounding her. The spot ends with the camera pulling back to a wide angle view of millions of balloons rising among Chicago's skyscrapers, including the Willis (née Sears) Tower with the tag line 'expressive messages on iPhone 7.'

    Previous spots have focused on iPhone 7 hardware features like its water resistance and camera. This is the first ad since iOS 10 was released that focuses solely on a new feature of iOS.


    Shazam’s Interactive Notifications on iOS 10

    A rich Shazam notification in iOS 10. Also, a great song.

    A rich Shazam notification in iOS 10. Also, a great song.

    I was recently watching a movie with my girlfriend, and it had a great soundtrack. After scrubbing the video back to open Shazam on my iPhone for the third time, I remembered that Shazam offered an automatic tagging feature to let the app continuously listen in the background to recognize songs. Shazam's auto-tagging isn't meant to be active all the time, but we were home, with my iPhone charging next to me, and it seemed like a perfect time to try it.

    To my surprise, Shazam started pushing tagged songs using iOS 10's new notification framework. Their implementation is a great example of what developers can achieve with rich notifications: a notification can be expanded and you'll be presented with a custom view showing the song's title, artist, album artwork, and global number of Shazams by users. But that's not all – you can also tap on the artwork to listen to a song's preview inside the notification without opening the Shazam app. If you want to act on the notification, there are three quick actions (another change made possible by iOS 10) to buy the song, add it to a playlist on Apple Music, or share it.

    Once I realized I could catch up on tagged songs from Notification Center, I left Shazam running and enjoyed the rest of the movie. At the end, I went through my notifications, listened to each audio snippet, and saved a few songs in my Apple Music playlists.

    The final result would have been the same in iOS 9, but the experience wouldn't have been as nice (or as fast) without rich notifications. I'm looking forward to more apps adopting similar notification features in the next few months.


    Swift Coding Comes to iPad: Playgrounds, Schools, and Learning to Code

    Right at the end of the WWDC 2016 keynote, Apple announced Swift Playgrounds. This is a new app from Apple that is designed to allow children to learn to program on an iPad. This is a first from Apple and a major advance for iOS as a platform.

    I was fortunate to be awarded an educator scholarship to WWDC 2016 and was privileged to be in the audience at the announcement. While attending the conference, I was able to speak with many of the engineers and educators working on Swift Playgrounds and gain an insight into what the software is capable of and the reasons why it was built.

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