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Magic Rays of Light: Argylle and Imagining Spatial Computing with Swan Song


This week on Magic Rays of Light, Sigmund and Devon discuss Apple Original Film Argylle ahead of its theatrical debut, our first look at changes coming in tvOS 17.4, the potential of game streaming on Apple TV, hints of our spatial computing future in Apple Original Film Swan Song, and the latest additions to Apple Arcade.

Show Notes

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Sigmund Judge | Follow Sigmund on X, Mastodon, or Threads

Devon Dundee | Follow Devon on Mastodon or Threads

View our Apple TV release calendar on the web.

Subscribe to our Apple TV release calendar.

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Add Timestamp Links to Apple Podcasts Next

Matthew Cassinelli:

Yesterday, Apple began adding transcripts to Apple Podcasts, detailing the change on the Apple Podcast for Creators site and making them available for in iOS 17.4 developer beta 1.

This change is a huge win for accessibility, will surely improve searching in the Podcasts app, and makes quoting your favorite podcast an easy task by letting you copy and paste the text out – something I’ll definitely have to turn into a shortcut soon.

All these benefits are great in their own way and will make podcasts more shareable as a whole, allowing us to unlock so many people’s great ideas that are currently stored within hours of audio files and obscured behind URLs that point only to the show or episode as a whole.

However, I think Apple needs to go one step further in their next step and add timestamps to Apple Podcasts, a long-overdue feature that’d enable users to share links to individual moments within a podcast, directly to a specific point in the transcript.

I couldn’t agree more. From sharing to personal note-taking and research purposes, there several use cases I can think of to take advantage of timestamp links for podcast episodes – especially now that they have transcripts. (Pocket Casts, my favorite third-party podcast player, goes even further: it lets you share timestamp links and save private, time-synced bookmarks for specific parts of any episode.)

I like Matthew’s suggestions for how Apple could implement this feature, and I’ll add: Apple has already built this system for the Music app. When the company added shareable lyrics to the Music app in iOS 14.5, they did so with the ability to share selected lyrics as a special “snippet” on iMessage that is actually an interactive, timestamped song preview based on a special URL. Here’s what I wrote:

Besides Apple’s custom implementation of lyrics selection in the share sheet, what’s also interesting about this is the method the company is using to share Apple Music lyrics URLs. Unlike regular links that reopen a particular song or album in the Music app or play a generic preview snippet in iMessage, lyrics URLs are timestamped: in iMessage, the lyrics card has a play button that will preview the lyrics you shared inline within a conversation; if you tap the link in iMessage and the same song is already paused in the Music app, the Now Playing screen will automatically advance to the section highlighted in shared lyrics.

I’m assuming that Apple is aware of this missing feature from the Podcasts app in iOS 17.4 beta 1; I have to believe their future implementation will be very similar to what already exists in Music.


Apple Introduces Transcripts for Podcasts

I switch to Apple system apps every summer to test the latest versions of the company’s OSes. I usually return to my favorite third-party apps over time, but Apple Podcasts has been an outlier since last summer for various reasons. The app has come a long way in recent years, and while it still doesn’t quite fit with how I like to listen to shows, it has stuck when many other system apps haven’t.

With other podcast apps struggling in recent months and Apple offering unique features that aren’t found elsewhere, Podcasts has become a compelling choice for a lot of listeners. And judging from the download numbers for AppStories, Unwind, and Magic Rays of Light, I don’t think I’m alone in this assessment.

An AppStories transcript.

An AppStories transcript.

Today, Apple added another reason to use its system app: transcripts. The new feature couldn’t be easier for podcast creators:

Apple automatically generates transcripts after a new episode is published. Your episode will be available for listening right away, and the transcript will be available shortly afterwards. There will be a short delay while we process your transcript. If portions of your episode change with dynamically inserted audio, Apple Podcasts will not display the segments of the audio that have changed since the original transcription. Music lyrics are also not displayed in the transcripts.

Listeners will be able to follow along with its transcript, much like how real-time lyrics work in Apple Music, with the text highlighting in sync with the audio for shows.

Viewing a transcript in Podcasts Connect.

Viewing a transcript in Podcasts Connect.

I’ve experimented with OpenAI’s Whisper for creating transcripts of MacStories’ podcasts, and although the results are good enough for creating a searchable episode database for our internal use, they haven’t been good enough to publish. As a result, I’m very keen to see how well Apple’s solution works. If they prefer, podcasters will be able to upload their own transcripts, too.

A downloaded transcript.

A downloaded transcript.

The transcripts generated by Apple are saved as VTT files, which is a W3C standard for displaying timed text using HTML 5’s track element. I looked at AppStories, and sure enough, there’s a transcript available for the latest episode already. As one of the show’s creators, I can access, download, edit, and re-upload the transcript. Based on my preliminary scan of the latest episode, though, the transcription is very good, including timestamps and identification of each speaker, although not by name, which isn’t surprising.

There was a lot of buzz surrounding the App Store changes coming to the EU next month. Those changes are important and will drive the story of the App Store for years to come, but there’s more to iOS 17.4, and Podcasts transcripts are a prime example of a feature that adds value and makes podcasts more accessible to everyone.

We Are Bringing Magic Rays of Light, Our Podcast about Apple TV, to MacStories

Today is an exciting day for Magic Rays of Light. We couldn’t be happier that our show is joining the MacStories family of podcasts. Before the first episode of this new era releases on Wednesday, we thought we’d take a moment to introduce ourselves and the show to you.

You can subscribe to Magic Rays of Light using the buttons below:

Magic Rays of Light is a weekly podcast exploring the world of Apple TV hosted by Sigmund Judge and me, Devon Dundee. You may remember Sigmund from his tvOS 17 review last fall. He’s the founder of Apple TV-centric website Screen Times and has been covering the platform since 2015.

In July of 2020, Sigmund launched Magic Rays of Light as a biweekly podcast discussing Apple TV news and everything happening with the upstart Apple TV+ streaming service. Each episode featured a special guest co-host, with guests ranging from journalists to developers to Danny Rojas himself, Ted Lasso star Cristo Fernández.

As for me, I came across the podcast when it debuted and was immediately hooked. I’ve been a dedicated Apple TV user since I picked up a third-generation model in 2012 and have been blogging about my favorite shows and movies ever since.

I came aboard as co-host in May 2021, and since then, Sigmund and I have been covering everything Apple TV on a weekly basis together. Over the past 104 episodes, we’ve discussed updates to the Apple TV hardware line, software updates and new features, our favorite Apple Originals, and much more. We’ve brought on a wide array of guests to share their perspectives on Apple TV and had the opportunity to interview creative voices behind Apple Originals including Servant, Little America, and Severance.

It’s been a great run so far, and we’re thrilled to be taking this next step. MacStories is the perfect home for Magic Rays of Light and the topics that we discuss. We hope that our show will be an enjoyable supplement to the coverage you’ve already come to expect from the MacStories team.

The world of Apple TV is vast, and there’s so much to talk about:

  • Hardware: The Apple TV isn’t on a regular update cycle, but Apple does love to surprise their TV fans with new hardware out of the blue. When each new iteration does come, we test it thoroughly and share every detail and addition, as well as our ideas of what we’d like to see come next. And of course, we have strong opinions on every single version of the Siri remote.
  • Software: tvOS is a constantly-evolving platform with changes big and small coming year-round. We keep an eye on updates to share what’s coming next for Apple TV users. We also routinely share our own vision for the future of tvOS and highlight great third-party apps from the App Store.
  • Apple Originals: Apple has become a major player in the worlds of streaming and TV/film production. Each week, we dive into new releases and round up all of the latest Apple Original news including production, development, casting, and awards.
  • Games: We love to play games on the biggest screen in our homes, and Apple Arcade provides a continuous stream of new games to play. We highlight each new title as it arrives on the service and share what we’re playing in our downtime. With Apple’s continued push to bring top-tier games to its platforms, we’re always keeping an eye on new non-Arcade titles coming to the App Store, too.
  • Apple Home: The Apple TV continues to play a central part in Apple’s smart home offering. In that vein, we keep up with the latest updates to the Home app and share our own smart home strategies with listeners. We also cover updates to the HomePod line and its integrations with Apple TV.

With so much going on, it’s an exciting time to be an Apple TV fan. We love exploring everything about it each week, and we’d be thrilled for you to join us! Magic Rays of Light makes its debut on MacStories this Wednesday. We can’t wait to talk to you then.

Magic Rays of Light Joins MacStories

We’re pleased to announce that starting today, Magic Rays of Light, the podcast hosted by Sigmund Judge and Devon Dundee is joining MacStories. Federico and I couldn’t be happier to be adding Sigmund and Devon’s expertise in all things Apple TV+, tvOS, and Apple Arcade to MacStories. It’s a fantastic show full of thoughtful insights on one of Apple’s most interesting platforms.

You can subscribe to Magic Rays of Light using the buttons below:

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Introducing the New MacStories Setups Page

Federico's setup (left) and John's (right).

Federico’s setup (left) and John’s (right).

Setup optimization is a never-ending journey at MacStories. We’re always looking for the fastest, most efficient, and often, most portable way to do everything in our lives. The result is constant change. Hardware and apps are swapped in and out of our systems and workflows frequently.

We write or talk about our setups in a bunch of different places, which we realize can make it hard to keep up with the most current version of what we’re using. That’s why we’ve dedicated to our setups. That way, the next time you wonder, what was that pair of headphones Federico mentioned on AppStories or that giant battery pack John wrote about for Club MacStories, you’ll have a place where you can quickly find the answer. You’ll find a link to the new Setups page in the navigation bar at the top of the MacStories homepage, too.

Our new Setups page is what Apple might call ‘a living document.’ We’ll update it periodically throughout the year with changes we make with links to everything that’s still being sold somewhere.

Speaking of links, many of the ones you’ll find on the Setups page are affiliate links. If you buy something using those links, MacStories, Inc. will receive a small commission. You can learn more about how MacStories uses affiliate links in our privacy policy.

Also, if you have any questions about the gear and apps listed on the Setups page, feel free to reach out on Mastodon using @viticci or @johnvoorhees, or ping us on Discord.

Apple Podcasts Adds Shows From Apple Music and News, Plus a Selection of Third-Party, Subscription-Based Apps

Apple Podcasts significantly expanded its Apple Music and Apple News podcast channels late yesterday and introduced podcasts for subscribers to a variety of third-party apps. In all, Apple says there are over 60 new shows comprised of over 2,500 episodes.

The Apple Music channel new features 42 shows, a significant increase from the handful that were available before. The lineup includes a mix of host-driven shows from Apple Music 1, interviews, music commentary, specials, and more, most of which are exclusive to Apple Music subscribers.

Apple News features four podcasts. News Today features a short, daily rundown of headlines from around the world; After the Whistle follows the World Cup; Apple News In Conversation is a weekly news commentary show; and Narrated News is an Apple News+ subscriber exclusive that presents audio narration of longform writing, something previously only available in the News app.

Some of the subscription-based apps that are offering podcasts. Source: Apple.

Some of the subscription-based apps that are offering podcasts. Source: Apple.

Among the subscription apps that are adding podcasts to their offerings are The Washington Post, Calm, Lingokids, Bloomberg, Sleep Cycle, and several others.

I haven’t had a chance to try any of the app add-on shows because I don’t subscribe to any of the participating apps. However, I spent some time this morning browsing through the Apple Music and Apple News offerings. Most of what is now available from Apple Music or Apple News in Podcasts was already available in their own apps. Still, I like having it available in Podcasts, where both channels’ shows fit in naturally with the other podcasts I enjoy, making Podcasts a one-stop destination for spoken audio. Listening in the Podcasts app also has the advantage of allowing listeners to receive notifications when a new episode is released and queue episodes for playback.

One thing I’d love to see the Apple Music and Apple News shows add is show notes. Links to songs played so they can be added to a listener’s library would be a useful addition to the Apple Music podcasts, as would links to materials on the topics covered by Apple News.

Relay FM Kicks Off Its 2023 Fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Today, Relay FM kicked off its annual fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to help combat childhood cancer. We’d love it if MacStories readers joined us in supporting this cause.

You can make a donation by visiting here.

If you’re a MacStories reader, there’s a good chance you have listened to one of the shows Federico co-hosts on the network or have another favorite, in which case you may have already contributed. However, if not, please consider donating.

St. Jude plays an important role in the fight against childhood cancer, treating kids, and doing research with other medical facilities around the world. Your donations help ensure that families aren’t charged for treatment, travel, housing, or meals, so their sole focus is helping their child get better.

Relay FM, which has raised $2.2 million for St. Jude over four years, will be raising money through the end of September, culminating in the Podcastathon, a 12-hour video streaming event featuring the hosts of many of Relay FM’s network of podcasts that will be held September 22nd. As in past years, the Podcastathon will be streamed on Relay FM’s Twitch channel.

Like last year, you can create your own fundraising campaign to help Relay FM achieve its goal and earn limited edition rewards in the process.

Thanks in advance for checking out Relay FM’s fundraiser for St. Jude and to all who donate.

Apple Podcasts Expands Its Analytics and Marketing Tools

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Today, Apple announced new analytics and marketing tools for podcast creators.

Apple Podcast analytical tools are being expanded to provide a wealth of new anonymized information about paid podcast subscriptions. The new stats will cover information about free trials, conversion rates to paid subscriptions, financial data, and more. There are a number of ways to filter the new metrics and display trends, too.

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Apple also announced additional delegated delivery partners, who allow podcasters to publish their paid subscription episodes to Apple’s platform using the delivery partner’s tools. The latest to join the program are Audiomeans, Captivate, Podbean, Podspace, and Transistor.

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

Finally, Apple and Linkfire are partnering to offer podcasters smart links to landing pages for their shows where listeners can access their shows and subscriptions. The links, which are commonly used in the music industry to give fans a way to connect to a musician’s material from multiple services, can be used by podcasters to feature their shows on social media, on websites, in newsletters, and anywhere else they want to link to their shows. Linkfire will offer analytics to users of their linking system, which will be anonymized. Linkfire’s new podcast links will be available this fall and include free and paid tiers of service starting at $9.99/month.