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Posts tagged with "iOS"

iOS and iPadOS 15: The MacStories Overview

This morning at Apple’s second fully-remote WWDC keynote address, Craig Federighi introduced iOS and iPadOS 15. This year’s updates include significant improvements to core first-party apps, new controls for maintaining focus, system-wide text and object recognition in images, and much more.

On the iPad-only side of things, Apple has announced a variety of new multitasking interface elements, feature parity with the iPhone’s Home Screen, quick note capturing available at any time in any app, and an overhauled Swift Playgrounds which supports building and shipping complete SwiftUI apps to the App Store.

As usual, developer betas are available today, with final versions scheduled to ship to all users this fall. Let’s take a look at all the details that Apple has in store for us this year.

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iOS and iPadOS 14.6 Released with Apple Card Family, Podcasts Subscriptions, Updates to AirTags and Find My, and More

Apple has released iOS and iPadOS 14.6 today with a handful of new features, including Apple Card Family and Podcasts Subscriptions, along with Updates to AirTags and the Find My app.

Announced during Apple’s spring event, Apple Card Family is now available in iOS 14.6. Up to five people over the age of 13 can share an Apple Card, allowing them to track expenses and manage spending. All family members on an Apple Card will build credit histories, and parents can set spending limits for their children too.

iOS and iPadOS 14.6 also includes Podcasts Subscriptions, which allows podcasters to offer paid versions of their shows. Shows can be offered as paid-only subscriptions or enhanced versions of free shows that add a combination of bonus features like extended, ad-free, and early-release episodes. The new subscription service is baked directly into the Podcasts app, allowing users to access paid subscriptions alongside free shows.

One of the features of AirTags at launch was the ability to add a phone number to call if a tagged item was lost somewhere. With iOS and iPadOS 14.6, users can add an email address. Also, Apple release notes say that when an AirTag is tapped with an NFC-compatible device, it will show a partially masked phone number.

Apple has also added the ability to unlock an iPhone for the first time after a restart using their voice, which is a Voice Control feature.

Not released with the update today is anything related to Spatial Audio or Lossless streaming of Apple Music content, which is not unexpected since Apple previously said the feature is coming in June.


Apple Announces SignTime and Many Other Accessibility Features Coming to Its Products

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Tomorrow, Apple will launch SignTime, a service that will pair Apple Store and Apple Support customers with on-demand sign language interpreters. The company has several other accessibility features coming too, which will be released later this year.

SignTime will allow customers to communicate with AppleCare and Retail Customer Care inside their browsers using American Sign Language, British Sign Language, and French Sign Language. The service will also be available in-person at retail stores without making arrangements ahead of time. For now, the service is limited to the US, UK, and France, but Apple says it will roll out to more countries over time.

Later this year, Apple will add AssistiveTouch to the Apple Watch. The feature uses hand clenches, pinch gestures, and hand shaking to navigate and select controls in Watch apps. Assistive Touch for the Apple Watch takes advantage of the device’s gyroscope and accelerometer along with the heart rate sensor and machine learning.

Also, coming later this year, the iPad will gain support for third-party eye-tracking devices to assist users in navigating the iPad’s UI. VoiceOver is also being enhanced with new details about people, text, table data, and other objects. The feature will offer far more descriptive information for blind and low vision users than ever before. Users will also be able to add their own image descriptions to their photos using Markup.

For deaf and hard of hearing users, Apple is adding bi-directional hearing aid support. The company is also including support for audiograms, which can be used with Headphone Accommodations to tune playback to a user’s hearing. Background sounds like balanced, bright, or dark noise, and ocean, rain, and stream sounds are being added too.

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Also coming later this year are Sound Actions for Switch Control that uses mouth sounds in place of switches and buttons, customizable display and text size settings for colorblind users, and new Memoji customizations to allow users to add oxygen tubes, cochlear implants, and a soft helmet for headwear. Many of Apple’s apps and services will also be marking Global Accessibility Awareness Day, which is tomorrow, with features, curated collections of content, and sessions.

It’s fantastic to see such a long list of accessibility features being added to Apple’s devices tomorrow and later in the year, which presumably means this fall when the company’s OSes are expected to be updated. It’s also unusual for upcoming OS features to be revealed before WWDC, but with Global Accessibility Awareness Day coming tomorrow, it’s an excellent opportunity to spotlight these important additions to Apple’s OSes and perhaps to free up time at WWDC for other announcements.


Snowman Announces New Creative Studio and Its First App, Pok Pok Playroom, A Digital Play Experience for Kids

Today, Snowman, the studio behind some of our favorite games on Apple platforms like Alto’s Adventure and Odyssey, Where Cards Fall, and Skate City, announced Pok Pok, a new creative studio that is launching an app on May 20th called Pok Pok Playroom.

Pok Pok Playroom is an app designed to encourage interactive play with a series of digital toys that spark curiosity and creativity in kids in a low-key, calming environment. The app’s digital playroom includes multiple brightly colored toys that prompt children to explore through independent play. Here’s how Snowman explains the app in its announcement:

Pok Pok’s first app is called Pok Pok Playroom. It’s a playroom filled with educational toys that spark creativity, imagination and learning through open-ended play. There is no right or wrong way to play, only lots of opportunities for experimentation and exploration. Pok Pok puts kids at the centre of the experience so they can follow their noses and learn at their own pace.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting Pok Pok Playroom since I got a demo of an early version at WWDC in 2019 from Esther Huybreghts who, along with her husband Mathijs Demaeght, are the artist-duo and parents of two young children behind its development. I’ll have more to say about Pok Pok Playroom when it’s released on May 20th, but for now, check out the trailer, which does an excellent job of providing a feel for what the app is like:

Alongside the announcement of the trailer and app release date, Snowman announced that Pok Pok Playroom is part of a new creative studio called Pok Pok. The studio, which was incubated inside Snowman for the past few years, was co-founded by Huybreghts and Demaeght, along with Snowman’s Melissa Cash, Ryan Cash, and Jordan Rosenberg, and will continue to build Pok Pok Playroom and new content for it that will be released periodically.

For more information about the app and studio, visit playpokpok.com.


1Blocker 4.0 Adds In-App Tracker Blocking with Its New Firewall Feature

I’ve used 1Blocker to block ads from cluttered websites for years. No ad blocker is perfect. Some ads still get through, and blockers can sometimes interfere with the functionality of a website, but of all the ones I’ve tried, 1Blocker strikes the best balance. The app is also available on all of Apple’s platforms, making it easy to block intrusive ads but allow them on sites where they don’t wreck the reading experience.

1Blocker, which I have covered many times in the past on MacStories, was the first iOS app I know that bundled multiple sets of content blocking rules to offer more filters than the iOS would otherwise allow. The system also allows 1Blocker to filter more than just advertising, such as social media widgets, comments, and adult sites.

Today, 1Blocker has expanded its coverage even further with a feature called Firewall. If you’ve read Federico’s in-depth story about iOS and iPadOS 14.5, you’re familiar with App Tracking Transparency. That’s the OS feature that requires apps to request permission before tracking your activity across multiple apps and websites. Firewall takes that a step further by automatically blocking trackers and doing so even if the trackers are what are known as first-party trackers because they don’t correlate your data with data collected by other companies. It’s an extra layer of protection between you and data brokers.

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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 Announces Find My Network and Three Initial Accessory Maker Partners

Today, Apple updated the Find My app to allow third-party products to take advantage of its network of devices to locate lost and stolen belongings from the app’s new Items tab. According to Apple’s press release:

“For more than a decade, our customers have relied on Find My to locate their missing or stolen Apple devices, all while protecting their privacy,” said Bob Borchers, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “Now we’re bringing the powerful finding capabilities of Find My, one of our most popular services, to more people with the Find My network accessory program. We’re thrilled to see how Belkin, Chipolo, and VanMoof are utilizing this technology, and can’t wait to see what other partners create.”

The Find My network program, which is part of Apple’s Made For iPhone program, allows accessory makers to hook into Apple’s Find My network to locate belongings securely and privately. Apple also said it is publishing a draft specification for chipset makers later this spring, so they can take advantage of the precise, directional capabilities of Apple’s short-range U1 chip.

Apple announced three initial partners who are incorporating Find My into their products. VanMoof is integrating the feature into its S3 and X3 e-bikes, Belkin is including it in its SOUNDFORM Freedom True Wireless Earbuds, and Chipolo is using Find My in its ONE Spot item finder. Find My’s integrations with these third-party products will work just like it does with Apple devices allowing users to do things like play a sound, locate items on a map, and put them in Lost Mode to lock them. Apple says all three partners’ products will be available next week, with more partnerships to rolling out soon.


Albums 4.0: A Must-Have App for Music Lovers

Albums 4.0 is a beautifully designed, feature-rich app with more filtering and discovery tools than any other music app I’ve tried. The app is also opinionated, favoring album playback over individual songs or playlists. It’s the sort of focused, deep approach to music that Apple’s Music app doesn’t offer because it’s designed to appeal to a wider audience.

If you’re an albums-first music fan, you’ll love Albums. However, even if you prefer singles, playlists, and jumping around the Apple Music catalog as I do, Albums is worth checking out. The app’s powerful filtering opens up brand new ways to enjoy your music collection that any music fan can appreciate.

It just so happens that Federico and I are in the midst of an AppStories miniseries on music. This week we discussed how we listen to music and how it influences the services we use. Next week, we’ll cover third-party apps including Albums and many more. You can check out this week’s episode here:

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HomePaper: A Handy Utility for Creating Beautiful Home App Wallpapers

Aaron Pearce, the developer behind some of my favorite HomeKit apps like HomeRun, HomeCam, and HomePass, has a new utility that is out today for the iPhone and iPad called HomePaper that solves a very specific problem: boring Home app wallpapers. The room and home settings of Apple’s Home app let you assign a photo or one of nine colorful backgrounds as wallpapers. The trouble is that photos of a room in your home are often too distracting to serve as wallpapers, and Apple’s other choices are too limited and similar to each other. That’s where HomePaper comes in.

The Home App's wallpaper choices are limited.

The Home App’s wallpaper choices are limited.

Pearce’s app combines the best of both kinds of default Apple wallpapers by taking a photo, desaturating it, and overlaying a colorful gradient. You could do something similar in a photo editor, but HomePaper automates the process with a simple app that lets you experiment with different looks, arriving at one you like quickly and easily, the hallmark of a great utility. The result is an image that helps visually differentiate homes and rooms from each other like a standard photo would but with an additional burst of color and style.

HomePaper provides many pre-built gradients as well as the ability to create your own.

HomePaper provides many pre-built gradients as well as the ability to create your own.

HomePaper makes creating great-looking wallpapers effortless with a huge set of pre-built gradients that you can pair with an image in your photo library or by taking a picture with your iPhone or iPad’s camera. You can also pick the two colors for the gradient yourself using the iOS system color picker. When you’ve chosen or created a gradient you like, tap the download button in the bottom left corner of the screen to save it to your iCloud Photo Library, where it’s available to add to the Home app.

HomePaper is by far the simplest of Pearce’s apps, but it’s no less useful. I had settled on a single generic Apple-provided background that was the same for all my rooms because the choices didn’t inspire me to mix them up, and there was too much friction involved in creating my own. With HomePaper, though, I spent a few minutes snapping photos around my house and then applying gradients, achieving results that look great with minimal effort. The Home app looks nicer now when I open it, but it’s also easier to tell one room from another at a glance, which makes HomePaper a wonderful addition to my HomeKit apps.

HomePaper is free to download, allowing you to make one wallpaper. A $0.99 In-App Purchase unlocks the creation of unlimited wallpapers.