I love trying new apps and services. It may be part of my job at MacStories, but even if it weren’t, I would still constantly be on the lookout for interesting, creative products that can benefit either my work or leisure. In recent years it seems like there’s always a fresh stream of apps and services to check out. Often when I try something new, however, I’m immediately confronted with the obstacle of a login screen. At which point there’s a choice to make: do I go through the hassle of creating an account for this service, or – if the option is available – do I simply authenticate via a third party like Google or Facebook? Sadly, neither option is ideal.
Creating a new account for every service you try is a major pain. It’s made easier with the aid of iCloud Keychain and 1Password, but while those tools eliminate lots of friction, they can be a little clunky, and in the end you’re still trusting your data to the (usually unknown) privacy policies of the service you sign up for.
Third-party login buttons solve the convenience problem, mostly. They may require entering your credentials for that third-party service, but at least you don’t have to create and remember new credentials for multiple services. The data privacy issue can be a question mark with these buttons though; when you authenticate through, let’s say Facebook, do you really know exactly what data you’re sharing with the new service? Or how the service will use that data? As consumers continue losing trust in Facebook itself to secure their data, why would they trust a service that taps into their Facebook data?
Sign In with Apple is a modern alternative to the current mess of login methods, offering Apple users a solution that addresses the current options’ shortfalls. It makes account creation and sign-in trivially simple – even more so than buttons from Google or Facebook – while also keeping your data in the hands of a company with a decent privacy track record.
When apps update to adopt Sign In with Apple, I suspect many users’ initial thoughts will be some variation of what immediately popped into my mind after trying it for the first time: “Where has this been all my life?”
We touched on most of this year’s changes to iOS in our iOS 13 overview earlier this summer, but one feature that has mostly flown under the radar is the debut of Activity Trends.
True to its name, Activity Trends is a new way to monitor the progression of your daily activity over time. The feature is exposed via a new tab in Apple’s Activity app in iOS 13, and it breaks down your activity over the last 90 days compared to the previous 365.
In the main view, Trends are broken down by a variety of metrics, with each metric displaying your 90 day average as well as a simple up or down arrow to indicate whether it has improved or diminished over that time period in comparison to the average of your last year. The goal is to give you actionable information and goals to bring these metrics up. Goals are applied on a weekly basis, and hitting them consistently will result in an increase of your 90 day averages over time.
The core experience of using Sidecar is fantastic. Part of the reason is that running an iPad as a second display for a Mac with Sidecar is immediately familiar to anyone who has ever used multiple displays. The added screen real estate, portability, and functionality are part of the appeal too. Of course, there are differences that I’ll get into, but Sidecar is so close to a traditional dual-display setup that I expect it will become a natural extension of the way many people work on the Mac.
There’s more going on with Sidecar though, which didn’t dawn on me until I’d been using it for a while. One of the themes that emerged from this year’s WWDC is deeper integration across all of Apple’s platforms. As I’ve written in the past, SwiftUI is designed to accomplish that in the long-term across all the devices Apple makes. In contrast, Catalyst is a shorter-term way to tie the Mac and iPad closer together by bringing iPad apps to the Mac and encouraging developers to build more robust iPad apps.
Sidecar strikes me as part of the same story. Apple made it clear when they introduced Catalyst in 2018 at WWDC that it’s not replacing macOS with iOS. Some tasks are better suited for a Mac than an iPad and vice versa. Sidecar acknowledges those differences by letting an iPad become an extension of your Mac for tasks best suited to it. At the same time, however, Sidecar takes advantage of functionality that’s unavailable on the Mac, like the Apple Pencil. Combined with the ability to switch seamlessly between using Mac apps running in Sidecar and native iPadOS apps, what you’ve effectively got is a touchscreen Mac.
However, to understand the potential Sidecar unlocks, it’s necessary to first dive into the details of what the new feature enables as well as its limitations.
CarPlay fascinates me because it’s a relatively rare example of a successful Apple software product that isn’t tightly integrated with the company’s hardware. Of course, CarPlay runs from an iPhone, but it also relies on automaker media systems to deliver its experience to users in their cars. This lack of integration shows in cars with slower media systems; however, even when automakers’ hardware provides a subpar experience, CarPlay’s simplified but familiar interface and access to content already on users’ iPhones is superior. So much so in fact that Apple says CarPlay has managed to capture 90% of the new car market in the US and 75% worldwide.
I first tried CarPlay three years ago, when I leased a Honda Accord. As I wrote then, Honda’s entertainment system was slow, but the experience was nonetheless transformative. Easy access to the music and podcasts I love, multiple mapping options, and access to hands-free messaging all played a big part in winning me over.
When my lease was up earlier this year, CarPlay support was at the top of the list of must-have features when we began looking for a new car. We wound up leasing a Nissan Altima, which has a faster entertainment system, larger touchscreen, and better hardware button support for navigating CarPlay’s UI. The hardware differences took a system I already loved to a new level by reducing past friction and frustrations even though the underlying software hadn’t changed.
Just a few weeks after we brought the Altima home though, Apple announced that it would update CarPlay with the release of iOS 13 this fall. In a jam-packed keynote, CarPlay got very little stage time, but I was immediately intrigued by the scope of the announcement. CarPlay hasn’t changed much since it was introduced in 2014, but with iOS 13, iPhone users can look forward to not only significant improvements in its design, but a new app and other features that make this the biggest leap forward for CarPlay to date.
Apple’s path to a home-brewed mapping solution has been long and perilous, but it’s almost arrived.
12 years ago the iPhone launched with Google powering its pre-installed navigation software; five years later, the botched debut of Apple’s own Maps app led to the firing of a key Apple executive; Apple Maps has steadily improved over the years, but seemingly its biggest weakness is that it has never truly contained Apple’s own maps. The app is Apple’s, but the maps have always come from other sources.
Last year, Apple announced a coming change that had been years in the works: Maps would soon contain the company’s own maps, and they would be transformative. The new maps started rolling out in the US last fall with iOS 12, and Apple claims they’ll cover the entire US by the end of 2019.
Timed with the spread of its first-party mapping data, Apple is giving the Maps app a big upgrade in iOS 13 that represents the company’s biggest push yet to overtake Google Maps as the world’s most trusted, go-to mapping service. Apple Maps in iOS 13 represents – if you’re in the US at least – Apple’s purest vision to date for a modern mapping service. Here’s everything that it brings.