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Posts tagged with "iOS"

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.


The Case for Shortcuts on the Mac

Jason Snell writing on Six Colors:

The more I use Shortcuts, the more I realize that in many ways, user automation on iOS has outpaced automation on the Mac. Let me give you an example: On iOS I built a shortcut to grab the contents of selected text in Safari and open the results in a text editor—converted to Markdown, with the title of the page set as the title and its URL set as a link. It’s not remotely the most complicated shortcut I’ve built, but it’s great—and has saved me a lot of time while improving the quality of my link posts…

I love it so much, I decided to build the same automation on the Mac. The results were ugly. My Keyboard Maestro macro forces Safari to copy the selected text to the clipboard, moves to BBEdit, opens a new window, pastes in the HTML, runs an HTML to Markdown Service on the selection, then runs an AppleScript script that cleans up the results. It’s ridiculous.

This is a fantastic example of something that I’ve experienced over and over to the point where I hesitate before trying to automate anything on the Mac. As Jason points out, Shortcuts isn’t exactly easy, but I find that I usually spend the most time figuring out the best approach to a problem rather than how to implement it in Shortcuts, which is automation at its best. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle that encourages me to experiment more with Shortcuts and use Mac automation less.

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Google Announces New Maps Features, Including Indoor Live View, Weather and Air Pollution Layers, and Eco-Friendly Driving Directions

Source: Google.

Source: Google.

In more mapping news, Google announced several new features that are available in its Maps app now or are coming later this year, including improvements indoor navigation, weather and air pollution data, eco-friendly driving directions, and delivery and pickup information.

Google is expanding its Live View feature to indoor locations, providing AR overlays in Maps to help you find locations inside airports, shopping malls, and transit stations. The feature is already available on Android and iOS for shopping malls in Chicago, Long Island, Los Angeles, Newark, San Francisco, San Jose, and Seattle in the US. Airports and transit stations in Tokyo and Zurich will be the first to get the feature, with other cities being added later.

Weather and air pollution layers. Source: Google.

Weather and air pollution layers. Source: Google.

New weather and air quality layers are being added to Google Maps in the coming months too. The rollout will begin in Australia, India, and the US, with other countries to follow.

Using data from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab, Google says Maps will soon offer eco-friendly driving and transit directions, and that the reduced carbon option will be the default when the ETAs of two routes are roughly the same. Google is also adding emission zone data to Maps later this year, which is a feature that Apple’s Maps app added with iOS 14 and a comprehensive listing of all transit methods available for any directions you request.

Finally, search on mobile is adding delivery and pickup details to business profiles in the app, including delivery options, fees, order minimums, and other information. The feature will start with Albertsons grocery stores in the US, with other businesses to follow. This summer, Google is also teaming up with Kroger and Meyers stores for a pilot program in Portland that will integrate Maps notifications and routing information with those companies’ apps when you place a grocery order.

Although most of the features Google announced for Maps are coming later in the year or are limited to selected geographies, it’s good to see the app being pushed forward. The frequency of new features in Apple and Google’s mapping apps goes to show the kind of progress that competition can produce.


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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Apple Frames, Now with Support for the 2020 iPad Air

Silvia's iPad Air Home Screen. Wallpaper via [Club MacStories](https://club.macstories.net/).

Silvia’s iPad Air Home Screen. Wallpaper via Club MacStories.

In the last update to Apple Frames – my shortcut to put screenshots captured on iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch inside physical device frames – from December, I added support for the iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max. Since the introduction of revamped widgets in iOS 14, Apple Frames is the only shortcut I’ve configured as a small, standalone Shortcuts widget on the first page of my Home Screen: I use it dozens of times every single day, and I can’t even begin to imagine the amount of time its image-based automation has saved me over the years.

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Maps Adds Accident, Hazard, and Speed Check Reporting Using the iPhone, CarPlay, and Siri to the iOS 14.5 Beta

Apple has rolled out another new feature to iOS 14.5 beta testers in the US: accident, hazard, and speed check reporting in Maps.

The new feature, which appeared today, is available once you begin navigating to a destination using Maps on your iPhone or via CarPlay. After you tap the ‘Go’ button, you can tap or swipe up from the bottom of the Maps app on your iPhone or tap the new ‘Report’ button on the right side of the CarPlay UI to reveal options to report traffic accidents, road hazards, or speed checks. All three alerts can be reported and cleared using Siri too.

Submitting a report using CarPlay

Submitting a report using CarPlay

I did some preliminary testing of the feature using Maps with my iPhone, CarPlay, and Siri, and it worked well without any issues. My one quibble is with the placement of the Report button in CarPlay. It’s quite small and on the far side of the screen from the driver. You can use Siri to send a report instead, but I expected the Report button to be revealed when I tapped on the strip along the bottom of CarPlay’s Maps view that lists information like the estimated arrival time at your destination.

It will probably be a while before enough people are using iOS 14.5 for accident, hazard, and speed check alerts to begin popping up as I drive somewhere. However, there are enough other big features coming in 14.5, like the Face ID plus Apple Watch iPhone unlocking when you’re wearing a face mask, that I expect we’ll begin to see notifications pop up in Maps once iOS 14.5 is officially released.


Apple Releases Betas with Face ID Plus Apple Watch iPhone Unlocking, App Tracking Transparency, and Other New Features

Betas of iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, and watchOS are out today with some interesting features. Last week on World Privacy Day, Apple announced that App Tracking Transparency is coming in the spring, so it’s no surprise that iOS and iPadOS 14.5 include the feature. However, there are several other features coming in the next round of OS releases, as summarized by Rene Ritchie in this tweet:

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