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Posts tagged with "iOS 14"

Shortcuts Needs a Notification Toggle

Chaim Gartenberg, writing for The Verge, on one of Shortcuts’ most annoying limitations in iOS 14 – its obsession for showing notifications for anything it does:

Apple, I assume, mandates notifications because Shortcuts are extremely powerful tools for automating things on your iPhone, and it’s easy to imagine unscrupulous use of them.

But the thing is, the power of Shortcuts is to automate things in the background that I don’t want to have to deal with, whether that’s automatically disabling rotation lock when I open or close an app, open an app with a custom icon, or change the wallpaper when the battery life is low. A big glaring notification every time I do something detracts from that idea. I want my phone to be quietly helpful, not shouting in my face every time it does what I asked it to.

Years ago in my review of iOS and iPadOS 13, I argued in favor of adding an “expert mode” to Shortcuts so power users could turn off confirmation prompts for automations (which Apple removed the following year) and other notifications. Two years later, I think this goes well beyond expert users.

Since the release of iOS 14, millions of people have turned to Shortcuts as a way to customize app icons on their Home Screens. And every time they tap one of those custom icons, they have to see an alert that tells them the action they just performed was, in fact, performed. Imagine if your Mac showed you an alert every time you opened an app saying ‘You opened an app’. That’s pretty much what Shortcuts does whenever you run an automation or a shortcut added to the Home Screen.

Given the popularity of custom icons powered by Shortcuts in iOS 14 and the universal disdain for its notifications, I would be very surprised if there’s no way to turn these off in iOS 15.

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iOS and iPadOS 14.5: The MacStories Overview

Shareable lyrics, third-party music services for Siri, and the refreshed Podcasts app in iOS 14.5.

Shareable lyrics, third-party music services for Siri, and the refreshed Podcasts app in iOS 14.5.

Apple today released version 14.5 of iOS and iPadOS, a substantial update to the operating system for iPhone and iPad that debuted in September and introduced features such as Home Screen widgets, multi-column app layouts on iPad, compact UI, a redesigned Music app, and more.

Version 14.5 is the biggest – or, at the very least, most interesting – update to iOS and iPadOS we’ve seen in the 14.0 release cycle to date. That’s not to say previous iterations of iOS and iPadOS 14 were low on new features and refinements – it’s quite the opposite, in fact. Perhaps the pandemic and Apple’s work-from-home setup played a role in the company spreading new iOS functionalities across multiple releases throughout 2020 and the first half of 2021, but, regardless of the underlying reason, iOS and iPadOS 14 have evolved considerably since their public launch six months ago.

With iOS 14.2, Apple shipped the traditional “emoji update”, but was also able to include a redesigned AirPlay interface, face detection in AR, and a brand new Shazam integration in Control Center; with iOS 14.3, the company rolled out its new ProRAW photography API alongside support for the Fitness+ service, App Clip codes, and the ability to launch apps directly from Home Screen shortcuts; version 14.4, released earlier this year, saw the arrival of proximity-based music handoff for iPhone and HomePod mini alongside new options for Bluetooth settings and other performance improvements.

It’s difficult to tell whether some of these features were originally planned for a September release and got delayed because of the pandemic1, or how many of these are Apple’s response to user feedback following the release of iOS and iPadOS 14, but one thing’s for sure: Apple hasn’t stood still over the past few months, and today’s iOS and iPadOS 14.5 are continuing the trend of major iOS and iPadOS updates released ahead of WWDC.

Let’s dive in.

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Apple Clarifies Ability to ‘Set Default’ Audio Apps in iOS 14.5

Earlier today, Apple provided TechCrunch with a fascinating clarification regarding the ability in iOS and iPadOS 14.5 to pick “default” audio apps for music, podcast, and audiobook playback.

From Sarah Perez’s article:

Apple has clarified that the iOS 14.5 beta is not actually allowing users to select a new default music service, as has been reported. Following the beta’s release back in February, a number of beta testers noticed that Siri would now ask what music service they would like to use when they asked Siri to play music. But Apple doesn’t consider this feature the equivalent to “setting a default” — an option it more recently began to allow for email and browser apps.

Instead, the feature is Siri intelligence-based, meaning it can improve and even change over time as Siri learns to better understand your listening habits.

For example, if you tell Siri to play a song, album or artist, it may ask you which service you want to use to listen to this sort of content. However, your response to Siri is not making that particular service your “default,” Apple says. In fact, Siri may ask you again at some point — a request that could confuse users if they thought their preferences had already been set.

On the surface, it appears as if Apple’s argument boils down to semantics. Because iOS 14.5 will not offer a proper page in Settings to configure “default” audio apps (like you can for browsers and email clients, as I argued on yesterday’s episode of Connected), then it’s not correct to say you’ll be able to change the default music app on your iPhone or iPad. We could debate why Apple is not building a page in Settings for this but still allowing Siri to integrate with third-party streaming services and apps (competitive advantages vs. antitrust concerns?), but that’s besides the point. What I find more interesting is that Apple explains this feature is actually doing more than just sticking to a default option:

The audio choice feature, of course, doesn’t prevent users from requesting a particular service by name, even if it’s not their usual preference.

For instance, you can still say something like “play smooth jazz radio on Pandora” to launch that app instead. However, if you continued to request Pandora by name for music requests — even though you had initially specified Apple Music or Spotify or some other service when Siri had first prompted you — then the next time you asked Siri to play music without specifically a service, the assistant may ask you again to choose a service.

From this perspective, given the dynamic nature of this functionality, I understand why Apple may be uncomfortable comparing it to the ability to switch default browser and email apps. At the same time, I want to mention how I’ve been using iOS 14.5 for the past month, and after an initial configuration, Siri continued to default to Spotify and never prompted me to pick another one again. I’m giving Apple’s explanation the benefit of the doubt, but I’m curious to see how this feature will work in the final release of iOS 14.5.

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Emojipedia Previews the Emoji Included in the Second Beta of iOS and iPadOS 14.5

Source: Emojipedia.org

Source: Emojipedia.org

Earlier today, Apple released the second developer beta of iOS and iPadOS 14.5, which includes new emoji. The latest additions, which include 217 emoji when you account for skin tone and other variations, have been cataloged by Jeremy Burge at Emojipedia.

A few of the 200 couples emoji variations. Source: Emojipedia.org

A few of the 200 couples emoji variations. Source: Emojipedia.org

Highlights include couples, with expanded skin tone options that account for 200 of the new emoji. The remaining additions include three new smileys: Exhaling Face, Face with Spiral Eyes, and Face in Clouds, two new heart variants, and gender options for Bearded Person. Apple has also revised the syringe emoji so that it doesn’t include blood, making it useful in a wider range of circumstances, and the headphones emoji so it looks like a pair of AirPods Max.

If you’re wondering why we’re seeing new emoji so soon, don’t miss Burge’s post from last summer explaining the Unicode Consortium’s new emoji approval schedule. The new emoji will be part of Apple’s next round of operating system updates, which the company has said will be available this ‘spring.’

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WallCreator 2.0 Adds Ability to Set Wallpapers, Save and Restore Favorites, Plus Automation Support

WallCreator 2.0.

WallCreator 2.0.

In September, I shared WallCreator, a shortcut to generate wallpapers for iPhone and iPad using gradients or solid colors. The first version of WallCreator allowed you to generate randomized wallpapers with just a couple taps from either the Shortcuts app or Home Screen widget. Because it was built entirely with native HTML and CSS actions, the shortcut had no external dependencies and didn’t require any third-party apps or connections to web servers. Here’s what I wrote:

Here’s the gist of what WallCreator can do: with just a few taps, you can either generate a wallpaper with a solid color or gradient. You can choose to enter your own colors (using their English names or Hex codes) or, even better, let WallCreator generate random solid colors or gradients for you.

You don’t need to worry about anything else: WallCreator will create the right version of a wallpaper for different iPhone and iPad models automatically, without having to specify any option; at the end of the shortcut, you can preview the newly-generated wallpaper and, if you like it, save it as an image to the Photos app. Otherwise, you can tell WallCreator you want to generate another image and start over.

Today, I’m pleased to announce the release of WallCreator 2.0, which has been updated for iOS and iPadOS 14.3 and Shortcuts’ new ‘Set Wallpaper’ action. Among other additions (which I’m going to detail below), WallCreator can now both save and install wallpapers on your device for you. Furthermore, thanks to the comeback of the ‘Set Wallpaper’ action, I’ve been able to create a WallCreator “spin-off” that runs as a headless automation and can change either your Home Screen or Lock Screen wallpaper (or both) on your behalf, with no manual interactions required. This is a pretty big update to WallCreator, so let’s dive in.

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Apple Releases iOS and iPadOS 14.3 with Apple ProRAW, App Clip Codes, Fitness+ Support, and Direct App Launches from Shortcuts

Today Apple released iOS 14.3, a mid-cycle update which includes quite a few very nice features. App Clip Codes were announced alongside iOS and iPadOS 14 at WWDC, so it’s good to see them finally making it out to the public. Similarly, Apple ProRAW was touted as a feature of the new iPhone 12 Pro cameras, but hasn’t been available to iPhone 12 Pro users until today (unless you were running the iOS 14.3 beta, of course). iOS 14.3 does include support for Apple’s impending Fitness+ subscription service, but as of this writing that feature is still disabled prior to the service’s launch.

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iOS 14.2, JIT, and Emulation at Full Performance

I meant to link this on MacStories last week: Apple lifted some of the limitations surrounding JIT (just-in-time compilation) for apps in the recently released iOS 14.2, which is enabling developers of emulation software, such as Delta and DolphiniOS, to run their apps at full performance on iPhone and iPad.

Filipe Espósito, writing for 9to5Mac, covered this a couple weeks ago and interviewed Riley Testut, the creator of AltStore (the non-jailbreak-based alternative App Store) and Delta, the popular emulator for old Nintendo consoles:

As described by Testut, Apple has added support for JIT compilation in iOS 14.2 beta 2 — but this has never been publicly mentioned by the company. The support was maintained throughout the betas and was kept in the final release. The developer believes this is an official implementation rather than a mistake by Apple, but there’s no way to confirm this for now.

And they quoted Testut saying:

For example, with JIT Delta could in theory emulate more powerful systems such as PS2, GameCube, and Wii; without JIT, we’d need to wait several more years before the hardware was capable of that. At first I was skeptical, but am now leaning more towards thinking this was an intentional change.

Hopefully, Apple will not revert this in a future update to iOS and iPadOS.

Viewtiful Joe and Metroid Prime running in DolphiniOS on my iPad Pro. Both games occasionally drop to 30fps, but playing them at 4K is amazing regardless.

Viewtiful Joe and Metroid Prime running in DolphiniOS on my iPad Pro. Both games occasionally drop to 30fps, but playing them at 4K is amazing regardless.

I’m an AltStore subscriber, and I’ve been playing old GameCube and Wii games on my iPad Pro with beta versions of AltStore and DophiniOS for the past week. Being able to play Viewtiful Joe and Metroid Prime1 at 4K60fps on an iPad Pro with a connected DualShock 4 controller is incredible, and something I never thought would be possible 17 years ago, when those games originally launched. What’s even more impressive is that, obviously, neither the GameCube nor Wii were capable of native 4K output at the time (as it simply didn’t exist), so not only can an iPad Pro emulate those consoles at full performance with JIT now, but it can even upscale them to 4K without any issues.


  1. I can’t believe Nintendo hasn’t remastered Metroid Prime: Trilogy for the Nintendo Switch yet. ↩︎
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Custom Shortcut Icons No Longer Open the Shortcuts App First in iOS 14.3 Beta 2

Juli Clover, writing at MacRumors about a tweak to Shortcuts in iOS 14.3 beta 2:

Apple in iOS 14.3 is streamlining the Home Screen customization process by simplifying the way that app shortcuts work. With the launch of iOS 14, users quickly discovered that Shortcuts could be used to replace traditional app icons to create an entirely customized ‌Home Screen‌ look.

Unfortunately, while these Home Screens created with Shortcuts looked fantastic, the experience was less than ideal because launching an app through shortcuts required the Shortcuts app to open briefly, slowing the app opening process. In iOS 14.3 beta 2, that’s no longer the case because shortcuts no longer have to route through the Shortcuts app.

As Reddit users discovered after installing yesterday’s beta, launching an app through Shortcuts on the ‌Home Screen‌ in iOS 14.3 pops up a banner at the top of the display, but the full Shortcuts app no longer opens, so there’s less of a delay when using a custom icon to launch apps.

When I covered the new Shortcuts widget in my review of iOS and iPadOS 14, I noted how disappointing it was that shortcuts added to the Home Screen as custom icons couldn’t take advantage of compact UI, which makes shortcuts dramatically faster to run. This single tweak has major implications for casual and power users alike, and it’s fascinating for a couple reasons.

First, it shows that Apple is very much aware of the fact that millions of people are personalizing their Home Screens with custom icons that are actually shortcuts based on an ‘Open App’ action. As of iOS 14.2, those custom icons don’t open the linked app directly: they take you to Shortcuts first, which then launches the app you need; it’s an annoying limitation, and it’s why I couldn’t get into customizing my Home Screen icons – when I tap a Safari icon, I want Safari to open immediately. With iOS 14.3, that’s going to be the case, and I have to assume Apple is doing this because of the popularity of this technique over the past few months. Even better, when folks who customized their Home Screens update their devices to iOS 14.3, all their custom icons will instantly switch over to the new direct-launching behavior – they won’t have to recreate those custom shortcuts from scratch.

Second, compact UI means that running shortcuts from the Home Screen as custom icons will once again be better than doing so via widgets. In iOS 14.3 beta 2, custom icons and widgets run shortcuts exactly the same way, except that you can place more custom shortcut icons on a single Home Screen page than widgets. I lamented the low information density of the Shortcuts widget in my iOS and iPadOS 14 review as well; with iOS 14.3, I’ll be able to place four custom shortcut icons in the same slot where a single Shortcuts widget would go, and I won’t have to sacrifice the convenience of compact UI. When it comes to custom shortcut icons that open apps, I just wish Apple would add an option to get rid of the confirmation banner that pops up every time you launch an app via a custom icon. Is that banner really necessary after you’ve launched that custom shortcut dozens of times?

I’ve updated both my iPhone and iPad to iOS 14.3 beta, and I guess I’ll have to spend some time rethinking my Home Screen (again) to include several MacStories Shortcuts Icons alongside app icons, replacing the Shortcuts widgets I added last month. This is going to be fun, and I hope Apple will continue to improve this feature with an option to disable the confirmation banner.

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