Yesterday Apple released iOS 12.4, an update that, during the beta phase at least, appeared to have little to no new features. Once the software went public with accompanied release notes, we learned that it contained a new iPhone migration tool, though it wasn’t immediately clear how that tool worked, or how it differed from existing migration options. Today Benjamin Mayo outlines the details on 9to5Mac:
With iOS 12.4 or later, there’s a new iPhone set up option. You can now perform a local iPhone data migration when setting up your new iPhone.
As part of Quick Start, you can now Transfer Your Data directly, without requiring to use iCloud or an iTunes backup. The iPhone defaults to using local WiFi, but you can transfer wired using the USB3 Camera Adapter and a Lightning cable.
Direct transfer copies across the same data as an iTunes encrypted backup; all your photos, media, app data, settings and more are sent over a peer-to-peer wireless connection.
This tool seems like a fantastic alternative to restoring from an iCloud backup, or performing an encrypted iTunes restore. Both existing options are troublesome for storage reasons: many users only have the free 5 GB iCloud storage plan, which often isn’t enough to store a device backup in the first place, and to go the iTunes route, you need adequate local storage space on your Mac to back up your entire device, which I personally haven’t had in years.
Another common issue with restores from iCloud backups is that, while they let you start using your iPhone after a short period of time, often the restoration of data such as photos and offline music can take days, if it ends up taking place at all. With the new local transfer option, the wait time before you can use your device is a lot longer (Mayo shares a screenshot estimating 90 minutes), but once the transfer is complete, everything on the new device should be identical to the old one.
I tend to buy new iPhones every year, and recently have gotten in the habit of setting them up as new devices every time – partly because starting fresh can help eliminate clutter, but also because iCloud restores have historically been inconsistent for me. With the new options added in iOS 12.4, I may need to rethink that strategy.
Apple has released iOS 12.4 with improvements to Apple News, a new iPhone migration tool, support for the HomePod in Taiwan and Japan, and a fix for the security flaw in the Apple Watch’s Walkie-Talkie app.
With the release of version 12.4 of iOS, downloaded magazines in the My Magazines section of the News app are now available for reading online and offline. The catalog of publications in Apple News includes newspapers like the Wall Street Journal, which previously weren’t listed in the catalog. There’s also a new option to clear downloaded magazines from Apple News by selecting History → Clear → Clear All.
In addition to the changes to News, the update introduces an iPhone migration tool that allows users to wirelessly transfer data from an old to a new iPhone during the setup process, support for the HomePod in Taiwan and Japan, and a fix for the security flaw in the Walkie-Talkie Watch app.
It was widely anticipated that iOS 12.4 would introduce the Apple Card, the credit card the company announced in March, but based on early reports, it looks like users will have to wait a while longer before signing up for the card.
For the past seven years, I’ve considered the iPad my main computer. Not my only one, and not the most powerful one I own, but the computer which I use and enjoy using the most.
I’ve told this story on various occasions before, but it’s worth mentioning for context once again. My iPad journey began in 2012 when I was undergoing cancer treatments. In the first half of the year, right after my diagnosis, I was constantly moving between hospitals to talk to different doctors and understand the best strategies for my initial round of treatments. Those chemo treatments, it turned out, often made me too tired to get any work done. I wanted to continue working for MacStories because it was a healthy distraction that kept my brain busy, but my MacBook Air was uncomfortable to carry around and I couldn’t use it in my car as it lacked a cellular connection. By contrast, the iPad was light, it featured built-in 3G, and it allowed me to stay in touch with the MacStories team from anywhere, at any time with the comfort of a large, beautiful Retina display.
The tipping point came when I had to be hospitalized for three consecutive weeks to undergo aggressive chemo treatments; in that period of time, I concluded that the extreme portability and freedom granted by the iPad had become essential for me. I started exploring the idea of using the iPad as my primary computer (see this story for more details); if anything were to ever happen to me again that prevented being at my desk in my home office, I wanted to be prepared. That meant embracing iOS, iPad apps, and a different way of working on a daily basis.
I realized when writing this story that I’ve been running MacStories from my iPad for longer than I ever ran it from a Mac. The website turned 10 last month, and I’ve managed it almost exclusively from an iPad for seven of those years. And yet, I feel like I’m still adapting to the iPad lifestyle myself – I’m still figuring out the best approaches and forcing myself to be creative in working around the limitations of iOS.
On one hand, some may see this as an indictment of Apple’s slow evolution of the iPad platform, with biennial tablet-focused iOS releases that have left long-standing issues still yet to be fixed. And they’re not wrong: I love working from my iPad, but I recognize how some aspects of its software are still severely lagging behind macOS. On the other hand, I won’t lie: I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of “figuring out the iPad” and pushing myself to be creative and productive in a more constrained environment.
In addition to discovering new apps I could cover on MacStories, rethinking how I could work on the iPad provided me with a mental framework that I likely wouldn’t have developed on a traditional desktop computer. If I was in a hospital bed and couldn’t use a Mac, that meant someone else from the MacStories team had to complete a specific, Mac-only task. In a way, the limitations of the iPad taught me the importance of delegation – a lesson I was forced into. As a result, for the first couple of years, the constrained nature of the iPad helped me be more creative and focused on my writing; before the days of Split View and drag and drop, the iPad was the ideal device to concentrate on one task at a time.
Over the following couple of years, I learned how to navigate the iPad’s limitations and started optimizing them to get more work done on the device (I was also cancer-free, which obviously helped). This is when I came across the iOS automation scene with apps such as Pythonista, Editorial, Drafts, and eventually Workflow. Those apps, despite the oft-unreliable nature of their workarounds, enabled me to push iOS and the iPad further than what Apple had perhaps envisioned for the device at the time; in hindsight, building hundreds of automations for Workflow prepared me for the bold, more powerful future of Shortcuts. Automation isn’t supposed to replace core functionality of an operating system; normally, it should be an enhancement on the side, an addition for users who seek the extra speed and flexibility it provides. Yet years ago, those automation apps were the only way to accomplish more serious work on the iPad. I’m glad I learned how to use them because, at the end of the day, they allowed me to get work done – even though it wasn’t the easiest or most obvious path.
When Apple announced the iPad Pro in 2015, it felt like a vindication of the idea that, for lots of iOS users – myself included – it was indeed possible to treat the iPad as a laptop replacement. And even though not much has changed (yet?) since 2017’s iOS 11 in terms of what the iPad Pro’s software can do, the modern iPad app ecosystem is vastly different from the early days of the iPad 3 and iOS 5, and that’s all thanks to the iPad Pro and Apple’s push for pro apps and a financially-viable App Store.
Seven years after I started (slowly) replacing my MacBook Air with an iPad, my life is different, but one principle still holds true: I never want to find myself forced to work on a computer that’s only effective at home, that can’t be held in my hands, or that can’t be customized for different setups. For this reason, the iPad Pro is the best computer for the kind of lifestyle I want.
However, the iPad is not perfect. And so in the spirit of offering one final update before WWDC and the massive release for iPad that iOS 13 will likely be, I thought I’d summarize seven years of daily iPad usage in one article that details how I work from the device and how I’d like the iPad platform to improve in the future.
In this story, I will explore four different major areas of working on the iPad using iOS 12 system features, third-party apps, and accessories. I’ll describe how I optimized each area to my needs, explain the solutions I implemented to work around the iPad’s software limitations, and argue how those workarounds shouldn’t be necessary anymore as the iPad approaches its tenth anniversary.
Consider this my iPad Manifesto, right on the cusp of WWDC. Let’s dive in.
Today Apple released iOS 12.3 and tvOS 12.3, both of which center around one main user-facing feature: the new and improved TV app. Apple first shared details of the TV app in its March event, and I reported my hands-on impressions last month, but today the app finally arrives for all users, bringing with it a fresh design and the addition of channels and personalized recommendations.
Alongside the new TV app, today’s iOS update also introduces AirPlay 2 support on compatible smart TVs, timed with Samsung’s own announcement of a firmware update for its TVs that includes both the TV app and AirPlay 2.
Today following its event at the Steve Jobs Theater, Apple released the latest major update for iPhones and iPads: iOS 12.2. This version of iOS launches Apple’s just-debuted subscription service for News, includes support for enhanced AirPlay 2 controls on compatible TV devices, plus it brings four new Animoji, and more.
Today, Apple issued an update to iOS that fixes the serious bug that we reported on last week, which could be exploited to eavesdrop on someone using FaceTime. With iOS 12.1.4 in place, Apple has turned Group FaceTime back on server-side too, but it will only work with the updated version of iOS and later releases.
Today’s software update fixes the security bug in Group FaceTime. We again apologize to our customers and we thank them for their patience. In addition to addressing the bug that was reported, our team conducted a thorough security audit of the FaceTime service and made additional updates to both the FaceTime app and server to improve security. This includes a previously unidentified vulnerability in the Live Photos feature of FaceTime. To protect customers who have not yet upgraded to the latest software, we have updated our servers to block the Live Photos feature of FaceTime for older versions of iOS and macOS.
In the security update notes released alongside the update, Apple credits Grant Thompson, the teenager who first reported the bug, along with Daven Morris of Arlington, Texas.
Available for: iPhone 5s and later, iPad Air and later, and iPod touch 6th generation
Impact: The initiator of a Group FaceTime call may be able to cause the recipient to answer
Description: A logic issue existed in the handling of Group FaceTime calls. The issue was addressed with improved state management.
CVE-2019-6223: Grant Thompson of Catalina Foothills High School, Daven Morris of Arlington, TX
According to Nicole Nguyen of BuzzFeed, Apple is also compensating Thompson’s family and making a gift towards his education:
Apple’s comment on today’s software update, which includes a fix to the Group FaceTime big. The company is also compensating the Thompson fam for reporting the flaw and contributing a gift to the teen, Grant Thomspson,’s education pic.twitter.com/uGNAQ9fFoq
In writing about Workflow (then) and Shortcuts (now) for a living, at some point I realized that if I wanted to build more complex shortcuts to either deal with web APIs or store data in iCloud Drive, I had to learn the basics of parsing and writing valid JSON. The format is behind most of the web API-based Shortcuts I have shared here on MacStories1 and is one of the techniques I recently explained on Club MacStories when I built a shortcut to save highlights from Safari Reading List. The beauty of JSON is that, unlike XML, it’s cleaner and more readable – provided you have a dedicated viewer that supports syntax highlighting and/or options to navigate between objects and inspect values. There’s no shortage of such utilities on macOS, but this is the kind of niche that still hasn’t been fully explored on iOS by developers of pro apps. That changes today with the launch of Jayson, created by Simon Støvring.
Readers of MacStories may be familiar with Støvring’s name – he’s the developer behind one of the most powerful and innovative pro apps of 2018, the excellent Scriptable for iOS. For this reason, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Jayson, a project that was born out of Støvring’s personal frustration with the lack of a modern JSON viewer for iOS, has that same spark of innovation and integration with native iOS functionalities that set Scriptable apart last year. If you do any kind of work with JSON on your iPhone or iPad, you need Jayson in your life, and here’s why.
As I noted yesterday, the launch of the developer beta of iOS 12.2 has brought the necessary underlying APIs for manufacturers of smart TVs seeking to integrate their television sets with HomeKit. Originally announced at CES 2019, the initiative encompasses both the HomeKit and AirPlay 2 technologies, which the likes of Samsung, LG, Vizio, and Sony will roll out (albeit to varying degrees) in their upcoming smart TVs over the course of 2019. Thanks to the HomeKit Accessory Protocol and the work of enterprising third-party developers, however, it is already possible to get an idea of what the HomeKit part of these integrations will be like by installing unofficial plugins that add HomeKit compatibility to existing TV sets via software.
Thanks to developer (and homebridge contributor) Khaos Tian, I’ve been able to test native HomeKit integration with my 2017 LG TV running webOS, which does not currently support HomeKit out of the box and which, according to LG, will not receive an official software update for HomeKit support in iOS and tvOS 12.2. In this post, I’m going to share my first impressions of HomeKit’s new TV features in the iOS 12.2 beta, describe how it all works in practice, and share some suggestions for changes I’d like Apple to implement by the final release of iOS 12.2.
Today following its Brooklyn keynote event, Apple released iOS 12.1, the first major update since September’s iOS 12 brought Shortcuts, Screen Time, and more. Version 12.1 adds over 70 new emoji, introduces Group FaceTime with up to 32 participants, and lastly 2018’s iPhones get upgrades via camera improvements and dual SIM support.