Last week, I wrote about ActiveTab, a Safari extension that draws a colorful line beneath the active tab in Safari for Mac, which makes it far easier to identify the tab you’re viewing. However, the Mac isn’t the only platform where Safari’s tabs are problematic. As Federico explained in his iOS and iPadOS 15 review, it’s every bit as difficult to decypher which tab is active on the iPad.
Fortunately, ActiveTab is now available on the iPad too. The extension has the exact same features as the Mac version, making the active tab stand out by drawing a line across the top of the content view underneath the tab. If you haven’t installed a Safari extension on the iPhone or iPad yet, be sure to check out my story on iOS and iPadOS 15 Safari extensions for details on how to set them up.
ActiveTab has added new Blend Modes and custom colors to the app too.
Since I first wrote about ActiveTab, the app has been updated to allow you to add a custom color using RGBA values, in addition to the set of pre-defined options. The extension has added a Blend Mode option on both platforms too, which can help set the extension’s colored bar apart from its background in some circumstances.
Chris Welch, writing for The Verge, covers an aspect of iPadOS 15 I also pointed out in my review: iPadOS 15 no longer keeps the same icon grid layout in portrait and landscape orientations, and, if you place widgets on the Home Screen, its density is reduced.
Some will see this as a very minor inconvenience and carry on with updating to iPadOS 15 for all of the other benefits. Since the App Library is now there, you can even go in the complete opposite direction and load your homescreens up with widgets everywhere and only a few app icons. If that’s you, don’t let me stop you. On the whole, it’s a very good release.
But I’m really hoping in a future software update, Apple will add a setting to restore the old layout that kept everything more consistent. It’d be even better if the company made the grid more customizable on the whole. If we’re letting people choose between new and old Safari designs, why not offer a choice between having more things on-screen or a less dense grid that’s better optimized for widgets? There’s already a “Home Screen and Dock” section in settings, after all. Letting you adjust the grid to your liking is something that Android phones and tablets already get right. It’s not a huge ask.
I think the point about customization is exactly right, and also why I’m not complaining about the ability to choose a layout in Safari. As iPads are used by a variety of less tech-savvy and more experienced pro users, it’s now increasingly challenging for Apple to cover the platform’s full spectrum of workflows with non-customizable features. Welch makes a great point about the Home Screen grid’s rigidity and lack of control; I hope Apple provides more options for this in the future, along with a denser grid if you have widgets placed on the iPad Home Screen.
For the past week1, I’ve been using Apple’s sixth-generation iPad mini, which is officially launching this Friday. I’ll cut right to the chase: I’ve been waiting for this kind of iPad mini refresh for years, and the device absolutely delivers on all fronts. The new iPad mini fulfills my longstanding dream of an iPad Pro/Air-like device in a diminutive form factor, providing a highly portable experience unlike anything else in Apple’s lineup.
The iPad mini was already in a class of its own; with this redesign, Apple has made the best small iPad I’ve ever tried – one that is a joy to use on a daily basis. Whether you’re looking for a companion device to your iPad Pro or a portable iPad to complement your Mac experience, this little iPad is worth the price of admission.
The new iPad mini was the missing piece to my iPad workflow; now that I have it, I want to use it as much as possible.
As usual, Apple sprinkled facts, figures, and statistics throughout the keynote today. Here are highlights of some of those metrics from the event, which was held online from Apple Park in Cupertino, California.
iPhone 13 Lineup
iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini
28% brighter display
800 nits outdoors
1200 nits peak brightness for HDR content
The A15 Bionic has 15 billion transistors and 6 cores, 2 high-performance and 4 efficiency cores, making it 50% faster (than the competition)
4-core GPU that’s 30% faster
16-core Neural Engine that handles 15.8 trillion operations per second
The Wide camera has a 12MP sensor, 1.7 µm pixels that gather 47% more light, a ƒ/1.6 aperture, a 7-element lens, and a 26mm focal length.
The Ultra Wide lens has a 12MP, a ƒ/2.4 aperture, 13 mm focal length, 5-element lens, and 120-degree field of view
The iPhone 13 mini gets 1.5 and the iPhone 13 gets 2.5 more hours of battery life than the iPhone 12 models they replace.
Storage is available in 128 GB, 256 GB, and 512 GB
iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max
50% faster graphics
1000 nits peak outdoor brightness and 1200 nits peak brightness for HDR content
10 - 120 Hz screen refresh rate
Telephoto camera has a 77mm focal length and 3x optical zoom
Ultra Wide camera has ƒ/1.8 aperture, 6-element lens, and 92% better performance in low light
Wide camera has ƒ/1.5 aperture, 1.9 µm pixels, and up to 2.2x improvement in low light
The iPhone 13 Pro gets 1.5 and the iPhone 13 Pro Max gets 2.5 more hours of battery life than the iPhone 12 models they replace
Storage is available in 128 GB, 256 GB, 512 GB, and 1 TB
.25 mm thicker than the iPhone 12 Pro models and slightly heavier
40% faster CPU
80% faster GPU
500 nits of screen brightness
2x faster machine learning
10x faster data transfers with USB-C
5G delivers up to 3.5 Gbps download speeds under ideal conditions
12MP camera with ƒ/1.8 aperture
20W power adapter
.31” shorter than the mini it replaces and very slightly lighter
At today’s Apple event, the company unveiled updates to the iPad mini and the 10.2” iPad. The 10.2” version continues to serve as Apple’s entry-level iPad at the lowest price point of any iPad, while the mini takes a more pro-like turn compared to its predecessor.
The new iPad mini was my favorite announcement of today’s Apple event. In the 18 months since I wrote The Mighty mini: Adapting Apple’s Diminutive Tablet to Work and Play, I’ve heard from many MacStories readers who have the same affection for Apple’s most portable tablet that I do. However, the trouble was that that iPad, which was released about 2.5 years ago, came with a lot of compromises compared with any other iPad you could buy until today.
FaceTime has been a centerpiece feature across all of Apple’s platforms for a long time. However, with the pandemic, it became more important than ever, playing a critical role in the way friends and family have stayed connected. Of course, FaceTime isn’t the only way have kept in touch. The app had plenty of competition from Zoom, Skype, and other services.
So, it’s not surprising that this year’s FaceTime updates focus on fundamentals like audio and video quality and making the app available outside of Apple’s ecosystem, allowing it to compete better with other services. Nor is it surprising that Apple announced SharePlay, which won’t ship until later this fall, so friends and family who can’t be together can still enjoy synchronized group activities like watching a video or listening to music. I’m skeptical that SharePlay will be the hit that Apple’s marketing suggests the company hopes it will be, but even putting SharePlay aside, the app is getting some major improvements that I think everyone will appreciate, so let’s dig in.
Today, Apple announced Sound Packs for GarageBand for iOS and iPadOS from artists and producers that allow users to remix hit tracks from Dua Lipa and Lady Gaga and create their own music, using hundreds of loops and sounds from producers that include Boys Noize, Mark Lettieri, Oak Felder, Soulection, Take A Daytrip, Tom Misch, and TRAKGIRL.
GarageBand continues to be a catalyst for music creation — making it easy for novices to get started and for seasoned pros to develop their ideas on the go. For this update, we’ve collaborated with an incredible group of artists and producers to give musicians an amazing collection of new sounds to play with, and we hope even more people will be inspired to tap into their creativity and start making music in GarageBand.
Each Producer Pack is bursting with hundreds of royalty-free loops, beats, instruments, drum kits, synth patches, and samples that embody the sound and vibe of each producer. And in-app videos feature each producer offering words of encouragement to beginners, as well as insights into their creative process.
One of the Producer Packs will serve as a companion piece to an upcoming docuseries with producer Mark Ronson called “Watch the Sound With Mark Ronson.” The TV+ series, which Apple says “explores and celebrates the intersection of music and technology,” will let GarageBand users create music using sounds inspired by the series.
I’m a little surprised that the Mac version of GarageBand isn’t part of Apple’s announcement today, but I love these sorts of add-ons to apps like GarageBand. This content allows fans of artists and producers to work with the same raw materials they do to come up with remixes and original music that express their personal tastes using a tool that is very approachable and fun.
First seen in the mind mapping app’s Mac version earlier this year, MindNode has added an editable outline mode to its iPad and iPhone versions. I was impressed with MindNode’s editable outline mode on the Mac, and I’m happy to report that the iPad and iPhone versions are every bit as good. The app’s editable outline takes advantage of the iPad and iPhone’s unique features to provide the same useful alternative perspective on your mind map that the Mac version offers.
In recent years, the narrative surrounding the iPad platform, and particularly its more advanced Pro line, has largely focused on the great divide between the iPad’s hardware and software. It’s a story we’ve had to grapple with for a while now: it was clear with the original iPad Pro in 2015 that its software – still called iOS at the time – needed to take better advantage of the 12.9” display, but we had to wait until 2017’s iOS 11 to receive drag and drop between apps; similarly, the iPad Pro was redesigned in late 2018 with the Liquid Retina Display and a gesture-based interaction system, but it was only in 2019 that Apple relaunched the iPad’s software as a standalone platform parallel to iOS but optimized for iPad.
The perception since the iPad Pro’s introduction is that its hardware has consistently leapfrogged its software, leaving many to wonder about the untapped potential of iPadOS and a third-party app ecosystem that could have been vastly richer and more powerful if only iPadOS allowed developers to write more complex apps. Effectively, “too good for its software” has long been the iPad Pro’s hardware mantra.
The 2021 iPad Pro, launching publicly this Friday, doesn’t alter that public perception at all. If anything, this new iPad Pro, which I’ve been testing in the high-end 12.9” flavor with 2 TB of storage for the past week, only widens the chasm between its hardware and software: it’s an absolute marvel of engineering featuring the Apple-designed M1 chip, a brand new Liquid Retina XDR display, and 16 GB of RAM1 that hints at a powerful, exciting future for its software that just isn’t here yet.
I say this as someone who’s been using the iPad as his main computer for nearly a decade at this point: from a mere hardware standpoint, the new iPad Pro is everything I could have possibly dreamed of this year, but it leaves me wanting for so many other iPadOS features I’d love to see Apple address at its developer conference next month.
The new 12.9” iPad Pro hits all the right notes as a modular computer that can be a tablet with an amazing display, a powerful laptop, and an extensible workstation; its hardware is a remarkable blend of tablet-first features and technologies first seen on Apple’s line of desktop computers. It’s hard to believe the company was able to deliver all of it in a device that is only 6.4mm thin. However, the new iPad Pro’s more powerful nature doesn’t fundamentally change my daily workflow. At least not with its current version of iPadOS that will (likely) be obsolete in two weeks.