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.
There's an age-old conspiracy theory that Apple intentionally slows down older iPhone models to compel upgrades to new ones. Every year around the time a new version of iOS releases – which also happens to be the time new iPhone models launch – users report that their old phones aren't as speedy as before. While some of this felt downgrade is to be expected with new features introduced in major iOS versions, Apple today confirmed that there is in fact more to it than that – at least, in certain cases.
Earlier this week John Poole shared Geekbench results that seemed to indicate some level of throttling of iPhones after certain software updates. His charts showed that for an iPhone 6s, iOS 10.2.1 introduced a performance change, while for the iPhone 7, iOS 11.2 did the same. Seemingly in response to these tests, Apple has released a statement to Matthew Panzarino of TechCrunch that aims to make sense of the inconsistencies.
"Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices. Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components.
Last year we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions. We’ve now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future."
Basically, iPhones were hitting peaks of processor power that the battery was unable to power and the phones were shutting off. Apple then added power management to all iPhones at the time that would ‘smooth out’ those peaks by either capping the power available from the battery or by spreading power requests over several cycles.
While Apple's lack of communication on this matter can certainly be viewed as a problem, ultimately the issue appears rooted in battery technology generally rather than in iPhones specifically. Lithium-ion batteries have certain limitations, which are exacerbated in certain conditions, and Apple made the decision to reduce peak performance in those conditions rather than leave users facing unexpected device shutdowns.
This morning Tim Cook took the stage for the first time at the brand new Steve Jobs Theater within Apple Park. Following a touching tribute to Steve Jobs himself and a slew of other announcements, Cook introduced the products that everyone was waiting for: this year's new iPhones.
Apple's 2017 iPhone lineup has a big twist over past offerings. Rather than just releasing two models of differing size and very similar specifications, the Cupertino company has announced three new models. The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are a fairly standard yearly update, including processor, camera, design, and display improvements, as well as a few unique and interesting new perks. Unveiled alongside these, however, is the big new thing: the iPhone X.
Apple is calling the iPhone X the future of smartphones, and it certainly does look futuristic. There are some huge changes in this new device for both hardware and software, but before we get there let's review the updates to the also-brand-new iPhone 8 models. I know the iPhone X is getting most of the attention, but we shouldn't overlook that Apple has some excellent updates to its other models as well. If the iPhone X weren't shipping this year, Apple would still have a strong lineup of smartphones for 2017.
If you didn't follow the live stream or announcements as they unfolded at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino today, Apple has posted the video of the event along with the product videos debuted on stage.
The keynote video can be streamed in Safari here and on the Apple TV using the Apple Events app. A higher quality version should be made available in a few hours through iTunes on the Apple Keynotes podcast.
Apple also posted new commercials and product-reveal videos for the iPhone 8, iPhone X, and Apple Watch Series 3 on its YouTube channel. You can find all those videos below after the break.
You can also follow all of our Apple event coverage through our September 12 hub, or subscribe to the dedicated September 12 RSS feed.
Max Rudberg played around with some ideas for a future iPhone with a notch in the status bar and a virtual Home button:
Apple’s accidental release of the HomePod firmware prompted Steven Throughthon-Smith’s to go digging through and uncovering a lot of exciting pieces on the upcoming high-end iPhone, codename D22. Allen Pike then had an interesting take on what that new form factor could mean for the UI.
Allen’s idea of how the UI will change on the new phone match many of my own thoughts. iOS 11’s large navbars seems like the biggest hint of upcoming change, and moving the left and right navbar items next to the home button allows for a much more convienient bottom oriented navigation. And everything just seems to fit.
I wanted to explore how this could look with a little more graphical polish, to try and figure out which way Apple would be most likely to go. I’ve used the same App Store Top Charts-screen as Allen did.
His mockups encapsulate why the next few weeks are going to be so fun – we think we know what the next iPhone is going to be like, but we also know nothing of its software. And an all-screen iPhone is, by definition, all about the flavor of iOS it runs.
I prefer the mockups that embrace the notch with a seamless transition of the title bar into a split status bar, but I could see a return to the old-school black status bar too. I haven’t felt this excitement around the new version of an iPhone from the design and developer community in years.