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Posts tagged with "iPad"

Six Colors’ ‘Apple in 2022’ Report Card

For the past eight years, Six Colors’ Jason Snell has put together an ‘Apple report card’ – a survey that aims to assess the current state of Apple “as seen through the eyes of writers, editors, developers, podcasters, and other people who spend an awful lot of time thinking about Apple”.

The 2022 version of the Six Colors Apple Report Card was published yesterday, and you can find an excellent summary of all the submitted comments along with charts featuring average scores for different categories here.

Once again, I’m happy Jason invited me to share some thoughts and comments on what Apple did in 2022. MacStories readers know that last year didn’t exactly go as planned. While iOS 16 delivered a meaningful update to the Lock Screen for people who care about customization and the iPhone 14 Pro came with substantial improvements to the display and camera tech, the iPad story was disappointing and confusing. This is reflected in my answers to Jason’s survey, and it’ll be a recurring topic on MacStories in 2023. At the same time, I was also impressed by Apple’s performance on services, concerned by the evolution of the Shortcuts app, and cautious about the company’s newfound approach to HomeKit.

I’ve prepared the full text of my answers to the Six Colors report card, which you can find below. I recommend reading the whole thing on Six Colors to get the broader context of all the participants in the survey.

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The Practicality of Art in Software

I’ve been following with great interest this series of articles by John Gruber (and Matt Birchler’s related story) about the chasm between iOS and Android apps. I have some thoughts since expanding my app knowledge beyond iOS and iPadOS is one of my goals for 2023.

About a month ago, during my holiday break, I purchased a Google Pixel 7 as a way to re-familiarize myself with Android.1 To say that I found the ecosystem worse than I remembered would be an understatement. It’s not just about the fact that – as Gruber and Birchler noted – most Android apps suck compared to their iOS counterparts; it’s that the entire OS lacks cohesiveness.

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Matter: A Fresh Take on Read-Later Apps

Saving articles and links from the Internet for later isn’t new, but it’s something that has drawn renewed interest from developers over the past year or so, including the makers of Matter, who are reexamining the approaches of the past through a modern lens.

An early version of Instapaper on the iPad.

An early version of Instapaper on the iPad.

Apps like Instapaper and Read It Later, which became Pocket, pioneered saving web articles for later. The original iPhone ran on AT&T’s EDGE mobile network in the US and coverage was spotty. Read-later apps saved stripped-down versions of articles from the web that could be downloaded quickly and read offline when EDGE was unavailable. The need to save content offline because of slow and unreliable mobile networks is far less pressing today, but collecting links and time-shifting reading remains popular.

I do most of my Matter reading in the evening on my iPad mini using dark mode.

I do most of my Matter reading in the evening on my iPad mini using dark mode.

Today, classics like Instapaper and Pocket are joined by Matter, which I’m reviewing today, plus Readwise Reader, which is currently in public beta, and a long list of link organizer apps like GoodLinks, Anybox, and Cubox, all of which include their own reading modes and are the spiritual successors to web services like Delicious and Pinboard. The result is that users have more choices than ever. That’s fantastic because, as I’ve learned from MacStories readers, no two people take the same approach to what they save and how they read and process it.

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Freeform Leverages the Freedom and Flexibility of a Blank Canvas

Freeform is a brand new iPhone, iPad, and Mac app from Apple that lets users create multimedia boards on an infinite canvas that include text, images, drawings, links, files, and more. It’s an ambitious entry into a crowded category of apps that take overlapping approaches, emphasizing everything from note-taking to collaborative design to whiteboarding.

As is so often the case with Apple’s system apps, Freeform falls squarely in the middle of the landscape of existing apps. Freeform isn’t going to replace apps that are deeply focused on a narrow segment of apps in the blank canvas category. Instead, Freeform is targeted at a broader audience, many of whom have probably never even considered using this sort of app. For them, and for anyone who has felt constrained by more linear, text-based ways of exploring ideas, Freeform is a perfect solution.

At first blush, Freeform’s spare interface may give the impression that it’s a bare-bones 1.0 release, but that’s not the case. The app is easy to use and impressively feature-rich for a new release. So, let’s dig into the details to see what it can do.

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iPadOS 16.2 and Stage Manager for External Displays: Work in Progress, But Worth the Wait

Stage Manager in iPadOS 16.2.

Stage Manager in iPadOS 16.2.

Ever since I last wrote about iPadOS 16, I have continued using Stage Manager on my iPad Pro. As I wrote in October, I like the idea behind Stage Manager more than its implementation. Despite the flawed design of its multitasking concepts and bugs I still encounter on a daily basis, it’s undeniable that Stage Manager lets me get more things done on my iPad by virtue of its concurrent app windows.

With today’s release of iPadOS 16.2, the idea behind Stage Manager achieves the full vision first presented in June, while its design and technical implementation remain stuck in an unpolished, half-baked state. Which is to say: conceptually, I love that Stage Manager in iPadOS 16.2 allows me to extend my iPad to an external display and put four additional windows on it; I’ve waited years for this feature, and it’s finally here. Technically speaking, however, the performance of this mode leaves a lot to be desired, with frequent crashes on my iPad Pro and an oft-confusing design that, I will reiterate, needs a rethinking.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve learned to live with Stage Manager, accept its quirks, and use what’s good about it to my advantage. As I recently wrote for Club MacStories members, I’ve put my money where my mouth is: I’ve gone all-in with Stage Manager on my iPad Pro and completely rebuilt my work setup around the M2 iPad Pro and Apple Studio Display, using Universal Control to seamlessly control iPadOS from a nearby Mac mini. (You can read the full story here.) After all, no other device in Apple’s ecosystem can effortlessly turn from a tablet into a laptop and into a desktop workstation like the iPad Pro can.

I’ve been working toward this vision for iPad modularity and contextual computing for the past several years. So now that Stage Manager has unlocked the final piece of the puzzle with external display integration, how good is it in practice?

And more importantly: was it worth the wait?

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ReadKit 3.1 Adds Smart Folders, More Customization Options, and New Lifetime Purchase Options

Around this time every year, I tend to start fiddling with my RSS setup. Last year, I drastically simplified my setup, and it worked well. Still, with Twitter’s fate uncertain, I thought it would be an excellent time to reexamine what various sync services and apps have to offer to refine my RSS reading experience.

One of my goals with this year’s experiments is to find better ways to filter and sort the articles in my feeds. Folders are a useful top layer of organization, but I’ve wanted more control over my feeds for a while now, especially when I’m busiest. One way to accomplish advanced filtering is server-side with an RSS sync service, but support for them by third-party RSS apps is limited. That’s why I was excited to see that ReadKit 3.1 has added a new smart folders feature.

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Stage Manager in iPadOS 16: At the Intersection of Bugs, Missing Features, and Flawed Design

Stage Manager in iPadOS 16.1.

Stage Manager in iPadOS 16.1.

This article wasn’t supposed to go like this.

iPadOS 16 is launching to the public today, and it carries a lot of expectations on its shoulders: for the first time since the introduction of the original iPad in 2010, Apple is embracing a Mac-like windowing system that lets you use up to four windows at the same time on the iPad’s screen. You can even resize them and make them overlap. If you’ve been following the evolution of the iPad for a while, you know that’s very unusual.

But the reason this story was meant to be different isn’t to be found in Apple’s design philosophy for iPadOS 16. Typically, MacStories readers would expect a full-blown ‘The MacStories Review’ to go alongside a new version of iPadOS. That’s what I’ve been doing for over seven years at this point, and I don’t like breaking my writing patterns. When something works, I want to keep writing. That’s precisely why I had to stop writing about iPadOS earlier in the summer and until last week.

Stage Manager, the marquee addition to iPadOS that lets you multitask with floating windows, started crashing on my M1 iPad Pro in mid-July and it was only fixed in early October. When I say “crashing”, I mean I couldn’t go for longer than 10 minutes without iPadOS kicking me back to my Lock Screen and resetting my workspaces. And that was only the tip of the iceberg. For nearly two months, I couldn’t type with Apple’s Magic Keyboard or use keyboard shortcuts when Stage Manager was active. Before it was pulled by Apple and delayed to a future release, external display support in Stage Manager was impossible to rely on for production work. The list goes on and on and on.

Normally, I would use the introduction of my iOS and iPadOS reviews to tell you how I’ve been living and working with the new operating system every day for the past three months. I’ve always tried to publish annual OS reviews that are informed by practical, consistent usage of a new operating system which, I hope, has led to highly opinionated, well-researched stories that can stand the test of time. That kind of story hasn’t been possible for me to produce with iPadOS 16 yet.

Effectively, I’ve only been able to sort-of use iPadOS 16 with Stage Manager on my M1 iPad Pro again for the past two weeks. Before that, it’s not that I didn’t want to use iPadOS 16 and Stage Manager because I hate progress; I literally couldn’t unless I was okay with my iPad crashing every 10 minutes. So, at some point over the summer, I made the call to revert to Split View and Slide Over – which are still the iPad’s default multitasking mode in iPadOS 16 – and I’d check back in on Stage Manager on each beta of iPadOS 16. It was only around two weeks ago that, despite some lingering bugs I’ll cover later, I was able to finally leave Stage Manager enabled and go back to where I was when I published my iPadOS 16 first impressions article in July.

Think about my position this way: there’s a hole from early August to early October in my typical “reviewer summer” during which I couldn’t use the biggest addition to iPadOS 16 at all. The fact that Apple delayed, slimmed down, and kept iterating on Stage Manager until the very last minute seems to suggest I wasn’t the only one desperately trying to make it work.

I started using iPadOS 16 and Stage Manager again two weeks ago; what kind of “review” should this be?

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The New iPad and iPad Pro Review: Mixed Signals

The new iPad Pro and iPad.

The new iPad Pro and iPad.

Last week on Thursday, I received review units of the new 10th generation iPad and 6th generation iPad Pro. I’ve spent the past few days testing and getting work done with both of them – including finishing a big story about Stage Manager I’m going to publish in a few hours on MacStories.

These are relatively easy iPads to review with a fairly straightforward narrative around them. The new iPad Pro is an iterative update that shows us Apple has seemingly hit a plateau in terms of innovation with this particular design – save for one feature that truly surprised me. The new base model iPad is a massive update compared to its predecessor, adding an all-new, iPad Pro-inspired design and a brand new accessory – the Magic Keyboard Folio – that has turned out to be one of my favorite accessories Apple has launched in recent years. I’ve had a ton of fun playing around and working with the new iPad over the weekend; if you’re in the market for an 11” tablet, you shouldn’t sleep on this one.

When considered individually, these new iPads are solid options in their respective categories – each delivering on the different goals Apple set out to accomplish for these product lines in 2022.

It’s when you zoom out and take a broader look at the new state of the iPad lineup that things become…a bit more confusing.

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Apple Announces Strange New iPad and iPad Pro Lineup

This morning Apple announced their all-new iPad and iPad Pro lineups via press release and a short announcement video. The new iPad (non-Pro) features new colors and an updated square-edge design that brings it in line with the rest of Apple’s modern iPads and iPhones. The iPad Pro has been upgraded to Apple’s M2 chip, and supports a new “hover” mode on the Apple Pencil. Apple also unveiled a new Magic Keyboard Folio accessory, which includes a detachable keyboard with a trackpad and function keys.

There’s a lot to like about each of these new products, but the details reveal some very strange decisions on Apple’s part.

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