Today, Casey Liss released a brand new app called Callsheet for looking up cast and crew information about movies and TV shows. The app, which works on the iPhone and iPad, has a lot in common with movie and TV show tracking apps that I’ve covered, except for one very big difference. Callsheet isn’t a tracking app. Instead, it’s an app front end for The Movie DB, a website that offers a crowd-sourced movie and TV show database and an API for developers.
That’s an important distinction to understand. Callsheet is designed for those times that you want to know more about the people behind a movie or TV show but find the ads in apps and on websites, like IMDb, frustrating. If that resonates with you, and you’re not interested in tracking what you’ve watched, Callsheet offers a better experience for finding cast and crew information.
The App Store is full of apps for tracking the media you enjoy, and at least for TV shows and movies, many use Trakt.tv as a data source and tracking service and Just Watch to list where you can watch something. That results in a degree of sameness in the category. What’s harder to find on the App Store is a well-designed TV show and movie tracker. There’s a lot of data available about what we watch, and as a result, too many apps wind up with cluttered, confusing interfaces. TV Forecast 2.0 by Matt Comi isn’t like that, which is why it’s been one of my favorite TV trackers for a long time, and with an update today, it’s one of my favorite movie trackers too.
I reviewed TV Forecast in 2020, and what I said about the app is just as true today as it was then:
When I stopped to consider what it is about TV Forecast that has made it stick for me in a way that no other TV tracking app has, I keep coming back to its balanced design. It has a simple elegance that makes tracking shows feel effortless and natural. For supporting an activity that I use as a relaxing escape, that’s exactly the type of app I value. When all I want to do is quickly check off a few episodes or add a show that a friend recommends, I can. Just as easily, though, I can wander from one linked show to another discovering new ones along the way. It’s that balance between utility and exploration that makes TV Forecast my favorite TV tracker.
For more on TV Forecast’s overall design and functionality for TV shows, be sure to check out my 2020 review.
I love the spectacle of CES. It’s a relentless firehose of ‘new’ that’s full of over-the-top ideas, vaporware, creepy robots, bizarre gadgets, and, best of all, legit previews of tech that’s just around the corner.
CES 2023 hasn’t disappointed, even though it doesn’t officially start until tomorrow. The show has a little bit of everything this year. As in recent years, though, there are a couple of categories that stand out already. The first category, which I’ll cover today, is displays, both computer monitors and TVs, which have become a pillar of CES. So much so that the confetti and champagne bottles of New Year’s Eve were barely cleaned up before the press releases began arriving. CES may not start until January 5th, but the days leading up to it have become a sort of pre-game show for the main event.
The other big story beginning to emerge from CES 2023 is devices compatible with the Matter smart-home standard. Matter 1.0 debuted last fall with a lot of promise but a small collection of new devices and updates to existing gadgets. Whether manufacturers can deliver more devices this year remains to be seen, but judging from what’s been introduced at CES so far, 2023 is shaping up to be an exciting year for the smart home.
Of course, there are many other interesting stories coming out of CES too. There’s a lot of ground to cover, so I’ll be splitting our coverage up, starting with desktop displays and TVs. We’ll have more on smart home devices, other gadgets, and what I affectionately call ‘weird CES’ soon.
Shawn Hickman is back with another excellent update to Sofa, the downtime/media organization app for iPhone and iPad that we’ve covered several times on MacStories. Sofa remains my favorite one-stop app for managing lists of media I don’t want to forget to enjoy later. The app supports TV shows, movies, books, audiobooks, videgames, music, podcasts, board games, and apps, making it the most comprehensive media organizer I’ve used. However, what makes Sofa special is its design and extensive customization options, which is why it was the runner-up for Best App Update in last year’s MacStories Selects awards.
What I appreciate most about version 3.4 of Sofa is that it extends the app beyond its existing boundaries with list sharing and new Shortcuts support. To round out the update, Sofa also adds Lock Screen widget support and TV and movie provider details for Super Sofa subscribers. It’s an excellent batch of new features for an app that I already consider one of the finest in its category.
The Consumer Electronics Show was back this week as an in-person event in Las Vegas for 2022 despite the current COVID surge, which caused many large companies to pull out of the show or scale back their plans. Still, that hasn’t stopped companies from announcing a wide variety of products planned for the next year and beyond. New TV technology and home automation are big again this year, as are new takes on existing tech.
After sifting through the headlines and press releases, I’ve compiled a roundup of some of this week’s most intriguing announcements. Feel free to skip around to the categories that you find most interesting using the table of contents after the break.
Sofa 3.0, an app that I last reviewed in March, is out with loads of new ways to track, organize, and browse the media lists you create. The app also has a new subscription business model for its pro features.
Media recommendations come at us all from every angle, whether it’s friends and family or sources like reviews. You can save lists of books, movies, videogames, and other media you want to try in lots of ways. You could use an app like Apple’s Notes or Reminders, but they’re general-purpose apps that don’t address the specific needs related to media consumption. Plus, trying to track media in something like a task manager gets out of control and messy fast.
Another option is to turn to an app designed for a specific type of media, and there are many good options available on the App Store. The advantage Sofa has, is that it makes it just as easy to pick a book as a movie or something else when you’re deciding what media to try next. It’s a subtle but important distinction. With single-purpose apps, you need to decide what kind of media you want to consume and then turn to an app to pick something. Sofa dispenses with the first step allowing you to answer a broader question: “How do I want to spend my free time?” That a one-stop approach is one of Sofa’s greatest strengths and one that the app leans into hard with the latest excellent update.
Sofa is a terrific downtime organizer. Since its release, the app has seen frequent updates that have added features and refinements that make it an excellent one-stop destination for collecting media you want to enjoy later. We’ve covered the app before, so I won’t revisit its core functionality here, but if you’re new to the app, be sure to check out our previous reviews for more details.
The headline feature of Sofa’s latest update is the addition of apps, audiobooks, and board games to the lineup of media it can track. I’m especially pleased to see that iPhone, iPad, and Mac apps have been added to Sofa. I’ve long considered trying new apps as a form of entertainment. Even poking around productivity apps that most people would consider ‘work’ apps is fun for many people.
The addition of apps is timely given the trend towards subscription-based apps with free trials. If an app catches your eye, but it’s got a relatively short free trial period, you can drop it into Sofa to try later when you can make the most of the trial. The addition of apps also provides a way to track games on Apple’s platforms that weren’t always available in Sofa’s videogame category. However, the change also means that you may have to search for an iOS game in a couple of different places at times.
Apple announced a lot of new software improvements during yesterday’s WWDC keynote, but time was short and one major platform didn’t receive its own segment: tvOS 14. Apple announced new tvOS features as part of its discussion of the home, but fortunately that doesn’t mean the latest Apple TV software release is light on improvements. In addition to features like HomeKit integration, new controller support, and improved Picture in Picture, tvOS 14 will offer a variety of other important updates when it launches this fall.
Here’s my overview of all the best new features.
Apple’s TV strategy has produced a mix of both winning and losing. While I think the company is largely on the right track with its efforts to produce original TV+ content, and it’s also poised to take a cut of many popular streaming services’ revenue via In-App Purchases, I nonetheless think it’s clear that the company’s attempts to offer a great TV experience are failing.