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Posts tagged with "iOS 13"

Apple Releases iOS 13.7, Bringing COVID-19 Exposure Notifications Express to the Public

For the first time that I can ever recall, Apple is releasing a point update to iOS just a week after the update’s first beta debuted. iOS 13.7 is rolling out now to iPhone users, bringing the COVID-19 Exposure Notifications system to users without the need to download a separate third-party app. This version of the system is being dubbed Exposure Notifications Express. Per an Apple-Google quote provided to The Verge:

As the next step in our work with public health authorities on Exposure Notifications, we are making it easier and faster for them to use the Exposure Notifications System without the need for them to build and maintain an app. Exposure Notifications Express provides another option for public health authorities to supplement their existing contact tracing operations with technology without compromising on the project’s core tenets of user privacy and security.

After installing the update, from Settings ⇾ Exposure Notifications users can either opt-in to the new system, which was developed in a partnership between Apple and Google, or sign up to be notified when the system becomes available in their region. Currently, even though a separate app download isn’t necessary anymore, Apple is still only activating its system in areas where public health authorities are explicitly on board and have the processes in place to utilize data gathered from iPhones and Android devices for the sake of contact tracing. This means availability still doesn’t extend to all iPhone users, but it will hopefully expand quicker than when a separate app download was required. In the US, Exposure Notifications Express will launch in Maryland, Nevada, Virginia, and Washington D.C. with more states expected to be supported throughout the remainder of the year.


Apple Releases iOS 13.7 Developer Beta with COVID-19 Exposure Notifications, No Third-Party App Required

Today Apple released a beta version of what must surely be the final major point update to iOS 13, version 13.7, which includes one big feature: support for built-in COVID-19 exposure notifications without the need to first download a separate app.

When Apple initially committed to build an exposure notification system alongside Google, it explained that while its system would be dependent on apps from public health authorities at first, at a later date the company would have the feature built-in to iOS with no need for an additional app download. Beta users will still need to explicitly opt-in to the system if they wish to use it, however; simply downloading iOS 13.7 will not enable COVID-19 exposure notifications. You can opt-in from Settings ⇾ Exposure Notifications.

Ever since Apple released the first phase of its exposure notification work as part of iOS 13.5 in May, adoption of the technology by authorized apps has been relatively limited. In the US, for example, it was just earlier this month that the very first state launched an app with support for Apple’s system. Now, for beta users at least, exposure notifications are no longer entirely dependent on the work of third parties – though that statement may deserve an asterisk.

Apple explained back in May how COVID-19 exposure notifications will now work:

After the operating system update is installed and the user has opted in, the system will send out and listen for the Bluetooth beacons as in the first phase, but without requiring an app to be installed. If a match is detected the user will be notified, and if the user has not already downloaded an official public health authority app they will be prompted to download an official app and advised on next steps. Only public health authorities will have access to this technology and their apps must meet specific criteria around privacy, security, and data control.

If at some point a user is positively diagnosed with COVID-19, he or she can work with the health authority to report that diagnosis within the app, and with their consent their beacons will then added to the positive diagnosis list. User identity will not be shared with other users, Apple and Google as part of this process.

This documentation makes it sound like downloading a separate app might be necessary after an exposure has been detected, but it’s unclear. It’s possible that the entire process can work without an app, but that Apple will, where available, promote and integrate with apps from authorized health authorities as well. It’s also unclear if the feature will be restricted to certain geographic domains or if it will be available to all users. 13.7’s beta release notes state rather vaguely that “System availability depends on support from your local public health authority.”

Requiring a separate app download, and even before that requiring health authorities to first develop their own apps, always seemed like too great of hurdles to allow mass adoption of Apple and Google’s system. Here’s hoping today’s release is the start of changing that.


Apple Releases iOS 13.6 with Apple News Audio Features and Expanded Local News Coverage, Plus Digital Car Key Support

Today Apple announced big enhancements to its Apple News offerings paired with the launch of iOS 13.6. Apple News is entering the world of audio through two main products: a daily news program called Apple News Today, which is available free to all users, as well as premium audio versions of News+ stories which are exclusive to paying News+ subscribers. iOS 13.6 also introduces curated local news experiences to Apple News in a handful of regions, and brings initial support for the digital car key feature first announced at WWDC.

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Apple Releases iOS 13.5 with COVID-19 Exposure Notifications, Face ID Bypass for Masks, FaceTime Setting, and Apple Music Stories Sharing

Today Apple released what is essentially a COVID-19 update for iPhones. iOS 13.5 includes several features specifically designed for our current global pandemic, including exposure notifications, mask detection for bypassing Face ID, and a new prominence setting for FaceTime, along with a nice new Apple Music sharing feature optimized for Instagram Stories. With WWDC and iOS 14’s reveal only a month away, this is likely the last major update to the current OS release cycle.

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Apple Releases iOS and iPadOS 13.4 with iPad Cursor Support and Keyboard Improvements, iCloud Drive Shared Folders, and More

Today Apple released the latest updates for its suite of software platforms, most notable of which are iOS and iPadOS 13.4. Timed with the release of the latest iPad Pro models, the hallmark features include brand new systemwide support for mouse and trackpad on iPad, plus a handful of external keyboard enhancements. Shared folders for iCloud Drive is the other big addition – first announced at WWDC last June then delayed out of the initial 13.0 release, iCloud users may finally be able to consider reducing their Dropbox dependency. Beyond those highlights, Apple has also included smaller OS tweaks in a variety of areas.

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iA Writer 5.4 Adds New Export Options, Local Backups, and Hashtag Suggestions

Over the holidays, the iA Writer team released version 5.4 of its iOS, iPadOS, and Mac apps, which added improved export options. The iOS and iPadOS apps also gained local backups and hashtag suggestions.

The new export feature adds the ability to share, export, print, and copy from the app’s Library using context menus. On iOS and iPadOS, each of those commands is available by long-pressing an item in your Library and picking from the popup context menu. The experience is similar on the Mac, where the same options are available when you right-click on an item in the Library. iA Writer’s release notes say that publishing is available via context menus too, but the MacStories WordPress setup doesn’t work with iA Writer, and I don’t use Ghost or Medium, so I haven’t tried that feature.

iA Writer includes a new Copy Markdown Action.

iA Writer includes a new Copy Markdown Action.

The alternatives for getting text out of iA Writer have been expanded too. The update’s Copy action has added a Copy Markdown option that makes it trivially easy to copy your work and drop it into another iOS or iPadOS app or paste it into a Mac app using Handoff.

Better yet, the Copy Markdown functionality includes content blocks to the copied text. That way, if you split a long document into multiple files, copying the Markdown of the main document will automatically incorporate the externally referenced files as content blocks. It’s an excellent way to assemble a long-form story and paste it into a content management system or another app with just a couple of taps. Together with the app’s existing copy, share, and export options, iA Writer has become one of the most versatile text editors when it comes to delivering your final text in the format you want and where you need it.

A local backup is saved as your document is edited.

A local backup is saved as your document is edited.

On iOS and iPadOS, iA Writer 5.4 has also added local backups, which are accessed from the action button in the toolbar, by swiping left on or long-pressing an item in your Library, or using Quick Search, which Federico covered in his review of version 5.3 of the app. Backups of your files are created as you edit them, and reverting to an older version is as simple as selecting the one you want and tapping ‘Restore.’ If you change the name of a document, the app keeps the older backups under the file’s original name. You can also navigate to the root level of your Library folder structure from the backups of the document you are currently viewing, allowing you to browse every local backup created by iA Writer on your device.

The strength of iA Writer’s backup feature is that the backups are local. iOS 13 has been a buggy release, and iCloud Drive continues to cause trouble for some users. By creating a local backup, iA Writer provides its users with a copy of their work on whichever device they’re using that isn’t affected by sync or other cloud-based issues.

In my testing, the new backup feature worked well and provided additional peace of mind that my work is safe, which I love. I did run into a bug when navigating back to the editor from the backup view when I entered it via the Library’s context menu. The editor lost the focus, so I had no cursor or keyboard, though it’s an issue that can be fixed by tapping into another document and then back to the one you’re editing. Hopefully, that will be fixed soon, but for now, the workaround is simple, and the issue is easily avoidable by not using the context menu to access backups for the time being.

iA Writer’s hashtag suggestions appear in the row above its custom keyboard.

iA Writer’s hashtag suggestions appear in the row above its custom keyboard.

Another iOS and iPadOS-only feature that’s new for version 5.4 is hashtag suggestions. Hashtags aren’t a feature of iA Writer that I use, but the update makes accessing hashtags more convenient by displaying the most recent three in the row above the app’s custom keyboard if your cursor is on an empty space. Alternatively, if the cursor’s inside a word, the top row offers to convert the word into a hashtag. It’s worth noting, however, that hashtag suggestions are not displayed when iA Writer’s custom keyboard is displayed as a popover on the iPad Pro.


In the broader scheme of iA Writer’s development, version 5.4 is a relatively minor update, though it does reinforce why the app was chosen as the MacStories Selects App of the Year. iA Writer has been a category-leading text editor for years, but it continues to receive regular updates that incorporate the latest technologies on every platform in ways that refine the experience for users and expand the app’s capabilities.

There’s an incredible amount of power tucked away behind iA Writer’s simple UI. That power is always just a tap or two away, but stays hidden until you need it, which is my favorite sort of pro app UI.

iA Writer 5.4 for iOS and iPadOS and for the Mac is available as a free update for existing users.


Apple Releases iOS and iPadOS 13.3 with Communication Limits, Removable Memoji Stickers, and tvOS 13.3 with Alternate Top Shelf for TV

Apple today released what are surely its last major point releases of software for the year, iOS, iPadOS, and tvOS 13.3, alongside minor updates for the company’s other platforms. In fitting the trend of an out-of-the-ordinary software release cycle, which was largely caused by a particularly buggy iOS 13.0 release, today’s releases don’t contain the number of features we’ve grown to expect from a point update. iOS and iPadOS 13.3 include only a couple noteworthy improvements: Communication Limits have been added to Screen Time, and Memoji stickers can be removed from the emoji keyboard. On the tvOS side, 13.3 re-introduces the option for the TV app to display your Up Next queue as its Top Shelf behavior rather than auto-playing video instead.

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Spark Updated with Multiwindow and Dark Mode Support and a Design Refresh

Two Spark windows open in Split View.

Two Spark windows open in Split View.

Spark, the email client from Readdle, received a strong update today that adds support for the latest iOS and iPadOS features, dark mode and multiwindow, while also introducing a design refresh that refines, rather than reimagines what was already there.

Multiwindow on iPad is excellent to have in an email app. I’ve been using Apple Mail in multiple windows since iPadOS first launched, and it’s especially handy for composing a message while still viewing other messages in your inbox, or that you’ve saved for later. Spark is no exception here: the flexibility to browse the app while writing a message, or even compose multiple messages at once, is fantastic. Where apps like the official Gmail client don’t even support Split View yet(!!), I’m happy to see Spark follow Apple Mail’s example in making multiwindow a core functionality.

Unlike many other apps that have added support for iOS 13’s dark mode this fall, today’s update for Spark is especially noteworthy because the app didn’t formerly offer a dark mode option at all. Now, Spark supports both light and dark modes and follows the system setting by default, though you can choose to perpetually keep the app in a single mode. I was happy to find that you can choose from both grey and true black themes, both of which look especially nice with the app’s blue accent colors; the only drawback is that just the grey theme can currently follow iOS’ system setting, so if you want to use true black, the app will stay in that mode until you manually change it.

Customizing Spark's toolbar.

Customizing Spark’s toolbar.

Dark mode comes alongside a design refresh for Spark. While the app will still look entirely familiar to existing users, I think the tweaks to font details, spacing, and layout result in a better experience overall. The biggest standout of the redesign is that Spark can now display avatars next to messages, similar to what the official Gmail client offers, which I really value. Also, there’s a new option to customize the toolbar actions when viewing a message. Spark has always been great at providing customization tools, so it’s nice to see yet another added to the app.

Spark is one of the best email options on the App Store, and I especially recommend it for teams. Federico, John, and I use its team features to share and comment on emails together, which is an extremely valuable aid to collaboration. If you’ve tried Spark before and it’s not for you, there may not be enough different in today’s update to tempt you, but if you use an iPad at all, don’t underestimate how nice it can be to employ multiple windows while working through email.


Adobe Creative Cloud App Brings Thousands of New Fonts to iPhone and iPad

Today Adobe released an update to its Creative Cloud app on iPhone and iPad which introduced a set of thousands of fonts that can now be installed on those devices via the new font provider system Apple added in iOS and iPadOS 13. Once installed, fonts from Creative Cloud can be used within any other app that supports custom fonts. The Creative Cloud app is a free download, and all users can download 1,300 fonts in the app for free; users with a Creative Cloud subscription, however, have access to a whopping 17,000 fonts.

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