David Sparks has a knack for breaking down big topics and making them approachable with his series of MacSparky Field Guides. His latest book, the iPhone Field Guide, covers everything iPhone-related. The guide is Sparks’ most ambitious work yet, coming in at 450 pages with over 50 screencasts.
The raw numbers are only part of the story though. New iPhone owners will appreciate Sparks’ coverage of the basics and Apple’s stock apps, but there’s a lot here for more experienced iPhone users too. The book is full of short tutorials and app recommendations to help all users get more out of their iPhones. I especially like that many of the screencasts focus on third-party apps, which is a great way for readers to get a feel for them before deciding to download.
The iPhone Field Guide is a fantastic reference that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to anyone who wants to take their iPhone and iOS use to the next level. Skimming through the book, I found many MacStories favorites among the apps covered, and having them all available in a beautifully-designed, interactive iBook makes picking out new apps a pleasure.
The MacSparky iPhone Field Guide is available on the iBooks Store for an introductory price of $19.99, which will increase at a later date.
You may remember Scotty Allen and his excellent YouTube channel Strange Parts (one of the best recent additions to my subscription list) for a video he shared in September about adding a headphone jack to the iPhone 7. After modding his iPhone with a custom case and backlit logo, Allen is back with the "ultimate" upgrade: after many failed attempts, he was able to replace his iPhone's built-in storage, expanding it to 128 GB (up from 16 GB).
As with his headphone jack video, this is not a process that most people can try: it involves soldering, obtaining a compatible iPhone flash storage unit, and a device to manipulate data directly on the chip. However, this is a fascinating look into the world of spare iPhone parts available in Shenzhen, and I highly recommend watching the video below.
Today, Apple introduced a (PRODUCT)RED version of the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Following in the footsteps of last year’s (PRODUCT)RED iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, Apple has introduced a special edition of its latest iPhone 8 to benefit the charity (RED). A portion of the profits generated by the new iPhone will be donated to (RED) to help fight AIDS.
The new iPhones, which were leaked via an internal Virgin Mobile memorandum, have a red back like the iPhone 7 did, but this year, the bezel of the (PRODUCT)RED iPhone is black instead of white. The new phone comes in 64GB and 256GB storage configurations and goes on sale online tomorrow, April 10, 2018 starting at $699 and will be available in stores Friday. In addition, Apple will release a new PRODUCT(RED) Leather Folio tomorrow for $99.
Whether you’re a developer who’s working on mobile apps, or just someone enjoying the millions of apps available for your phone, today is a very special day. It’s the ten year anniversary of the original iPhone SDK.
I don’t think it’s an understatement to say that this release changed a lot of people’s lives. I know it changed mine and had a fundamental impact on this company’s business. So let’s take a moment and look back on what happened a decade ago.
Craig Hockenberry published a fantastic retrospective on a decade of the iPhone SDK, which, after months of jailbreaking, allowed developers to start making real iPhone apps in 2008. It's an excellent, well-researched story (with a lot of links, which you should open in new tabs; take your time to explore) that brings back a lot of memories. You should also check out the replies (standard and quoted) to Craig's tweet for a lot more interesting stories.
It's not an exaggeration to say that I wouldn't be here, typing this post today, hadn't Apple decided to open iPhone app development to third-party developers 10 years ago. I think many of us in this community of people who still care about this stuff at least partially owe our careers to the iPhone SDK. I've shared this story before, but in 2008 I dropped out of university, got a job at a physical "eBay store", and later started blogging with a free WordPress website because I wanted to write about apps. But really, I wanted to write about iPhone apps and try as many as possible to share my thoughts with other people. That website eventually became MacStories and these words I've been putting out for almost 9 years now.
In hindsight, it feels strange that thousands of jobs around the world were created or inspired by a huge and sprawling corporation, but it didn't feel that way back then. Even as a nobody watching and blogging (in poor English) from the sidelines of a burgeoning industry, that period between the spring of 2008 and early 2009 carried a palpable sense of discovery, surprise, and wild experimentation that I remember fondly. I saw app developers as pioneers charting a future we couldn't even imagine. It was, in many ways, a different, ingenuous, more enthusiastic era – one that I hope to live through again someday.
You can download my wallpaper here.
The new year is always an opportunity for me to take some time off work and better understand how I use technology and, more importantly, what I want from the devices I write about. Historically, that meant I would take a short break over the holidays and come back to MacStories with a handful of recommendations for new apps I wanted to test throughout the year, from text editors to finance management utilities and health apps.
This time, the break lasted a little longer. Last year was a particularly stressful one for me, and I felt that I needed to take at least a couple of weeks off all my work projects to clear my mind and make a plan for the year ahead. That turned out to be a fantastic idea: not only was I able to finally relax (to the point where I was craving the website and feeling the urge to write again) – the extended break also allowed me to identify areas of my life that I wanted to act upon immediately and improve in 2018.
This is why, when Myke Hurley asked me on Analog(ue) which big project I was working on for the new year, my first answer was "myself". My plan for 2018 is to take better care of myself – from multiple perspectives – so I can avoid the stress of 2017, feel more inspired, write more, and, ultimately, be happier. I don't have a single big "work project" for 2018; my goal is to improve every aspect of my daily routine, in big and small ways, so everything I do can subsequently grow as well. Essentially, I need to fix the foundation before I can build on top of it again.
In addition to new habits (which I detailed in last month's issue of the MacStories Monthly Log for Club members; you should subscribe if you haven't yet), this effort involves new apps I'm using to help me along the way. I decided to wait a full month after I came back to work because I wanted to see which ones would actually stick around; what you'll find below is a collection of apps I'm now using on my iPhone and iPad on a daily basis.
While this type of story isn't new to longtime MacStories readers, I feel like the 2018 version is more personal and pragmatic. These aren't advanced automation apps or utilities I'm just experimenting with for the mere sake of geekery; from mental health to time tracking, each of these apps is having a tangible, positive impact on my life that I'd like to highlight.
With the ubiquity of the smartphone in increasingly younger classrooms, integrating them into education is fast becoming a requirement for teachers. What better way to tame smartphones in the classroom than to make them part of the learning process?
Matthew Braun, developer of SketchParty TV (one of my favorite Apple TV games), released a new app to do just that. Waypoint EDU uses AR to make the phone not only a learning tool, but a truly interactive experience that can take place outdoors. Or anywhere.
From the student perspective, it works like this: students see a waypoint on a map of their current location and move around to find it. A la Pokemon Go, they search by looking through their phones, scanning for an out-of-place object such as a (miniature) colosseum sitting in a park. Once they've found the waypoint, they answer a quiz question to reveal the next waypoint. Think augmented reality geocaching.
From the teacher (or parent) side, creating a curriculum is pretty easy. I didn't get into creating a fully customized one while I was trying it out, but editing the waypoints and related questions is simple. Once you have your curriculum set up, you just pull up the map and draw the playfield with your finger. The waypoints are automatically placed within the playfield, ready for the Hunt to be shared with the students via AirDrop. You can currently add artwork from a library, and the ability to add your own artwork will be a paid feature in a future update.
Waypoint EDU is a free app. Obviously, it has the requirement that everyone in the group has access to an iPhone. In situations where that's possible, Waypoint EDU seems to me like the future of field trips. Below is a video of Waypoint EDU in action. You can find it on the App Store, and get more info at waypointedu.com.
In an interview with ABC News' Rebecca Jarvis about Apple's investments in the U.S. economy, CEO Tim Cook confirmed that an upcoming iOS developer beta, due to be released in February, will include, in addition to a previously announced battery health screen, a setting to disable iPhone performance throttling. Cook explained that, while Apple will recommend to keep throttling enabled to prevent unexpected shutdowns in emergency situations, iOS will also include an option to turn it off for users who don't want their iPhone's performance reduced by software.
As noted by Benjamin Mayo at 9to5Mac:
You can listen to Cook talk about this in the interview embedded below. Skip to around 4:30 to hear him talk about the iPhone slowdown debacle. His wording is not ambiguous, he states plainly that Apple will release the developer beta (presumably iOS 11.3) next month and that it will include the ability for users to disable performance throttling if they want to.
Given Cook's comments, it sounds likely that iOS 11.2.5 (currently in beta) will be released by the end of the month, with iOS 11.3 beta following in February and a possible launch in March, as with other .3 releases in previous years.
The ElevationDock 4 is an unassuming collection of smart design decisions that together make it my favorite iPhone dock. The device, which comes in black or white, performs well as a place to charge my iPhone, which isn’t remarkable by itself. What distinguishes the ElevationDock though, is the little touches that combine to make it more useful than other docks.
In an open letter to customers, Apple has addressed how it handles the CPU performance of iPhones with older batteries.
We’ve been hearing feedback from our customers about the way we handle performance for iPhones with older batteries and how we have communicated that process. We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize. There’s been a lot of misunderstanding about this issue, so we would like to clarify and let you know about some changes we’re making.
First and foremost, we have never — and would never — do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.
Since iOS 10.2.1 the CPU performance of iPhones with older batteries has been reduced by iOS to prevent device shutdowns. The CPU throttling was not communicated to customers, however, which led to accusations of planned obsolescence.
In response, Apple is taking two steps:
To address our customers’ concerns, to recognize their loyalty and to regain the trust of anyone who may have doubted Apple’s intentions, we’ve decided to take the following steps:
• Apple is reducing the price of an out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacement by $50 — from $79 to $29 — for anyone with an iPhone 6 or later whose battery needs to be replaced, starting in late January and available worldwide through December 2018. Details will be provided soon on apple.com.
• Early in 2018, we will issue an iOS software update with new features that give users more visibility into the health of their iPhone’s battery, so they can see for themselves if its condition is affecting performance.
In addition to the open letter to customers, Apple added a new support article called iPhone Battery and Performance, which explains how lithium-ion batteries chemically age and how this can lead to device shutdowns. The support article also lists some of the changes users can expect to experience if their iPhone’s CPU is slowed down.
It’s unfortunate that the kind of clear, reasonable explanation of why device CPUs are throttled wasn’t communicated to customers when it was first introduced in iOS 10.2.1. Battery chemistry and device shutdowns are not the easiest topics to explain to customers, but today’s letter shows Apple is capable of it and hopefully will be more likely to do so in the future.