by Lars Augustin
Apple TV+ launched today. I’ve watched the first episode of “For all Mankind” and think, I like the show. While there is still way too little content, the direction they seem to be going in is good.
In a couple of months we‘ll be able to judge on the development of the service.
This keyboard looks pretty familiar: Apple, please don’t ship a butterfly keyboard again.
AirPods revolutionized the wireless audio experience with a breakthrough design, and now AirPods Pro take it even further with a new class of lightweight, in-ear headphones engineered for comfort and fit. Each earbud comes with three different sizes of soft, flexible silicone ear tips that conform to the contours of each individual ear, providing both a comfortable fit and a superior seal — a critical factor in delivering immersive sound. To further maximize comfort, AirPods Pro use an innovative vent system to equalize pressure, minimizing the discomfort common in other in-ear designs. AirPods Pro are sweat- and water-resistant, making them perfect for active lifestyles.
The current AirPods fit me just fine. I just hope these new ones will fit as well.
Also: why is there no black (or green) version?
Even though I (almost) exclusively use Apple products these days, Microsofts hardware events are still worth a watch for me. Every time they have an event, there is something insanely interesting they announce. The presentation style is also a nice refresher from Apple’s. Also, Panos Panay is a terrific presenter.
While the event started out with some product refreshes, they quickly got to new products. The Surface Laptop 3 and Surface Pro 7 are perfecting an already great product with some useful additions. And they have a functioning keyboard.
Surface Buds look pretty interesting, even though they literally fell out of the presenters ear on stage. The features look cool, but wouldn’t be useful to someone like me. After announcing the iterative Surface Pro 7, Microsoft introduced their all new Surface Pro X. This is a completely rethought version of the Surface Pro. Both the new slim pen and the custom ARM processor look interesting to me, but will have to be tested.
After announcing these additions to the lineup, the all-new Surface Neo was introduced. This product is the revival of Microsoft’s Courier project. It’s basically a (foldable) digital notebook, running Windows 10X. Windows 10X is Microsoft’s new operating system for foldable devices. To me it looks very exciting and I look forward to reading the reviews late next year.
After announcing the Surface Neo, Panos successfully pulled off a “one more thing” moment. The introduction of the Surface Duo was a complete surprise to everyone. It’s a smaller version of the Neo, running Android. This device looks terrific. I love it. Even though I don’t really like Android, I might consider buying it just because I like the hardware that much.
Those were just my thoughts. I obviously think, that the event was incredible. All of the new hardware is unbelievably cool. Now they’ve just got to fix Windows…
For a more complete look at the event, check out this article by The Verge
A new version of Yttrium will roll out this week, starting today. What’s new in this version? Here are the release notes:
This version includes support for iOS 13 and iPadOS. On your iPad, you can now use the new undo and redo gestures within a scene. On your iPhone, you can now use a new panel interface to quickly dismiss documents and previews. On both devices, the dark and light appearances are supported. When using an iPad, the preview window in the lower-left corner is now bigger, allowing for even faster iteration. Bugs that were fixed include the previously broken iCloud Drive integration, autosave sometimes refusing to save a document, and a workspace bug, where the canvas always got centered, when a new node was added.
I hope you like it. In the next couple of weeks, I might also have some news about the Mac version. And a new app…
Wait what? I haven’t yet written about the Apple Event? I really am the worst Apple blogger ever.
Now that no-one cares anymore, here are some notes about the event:
- Apple Arcade: the games and the service look really cool; it’s launching on September 19 for 5$; I will definitely subscribe
- Apple TV+: the trailer we were able to see (pun intended) was pretty good; the service is going to launch in November for 5$ and will be bundled with all new Apple devices
- iPad: insanely cool hardware (smart keyboard); exception: A10 chip; great price; I will buy one to replace my iPad 7th generation
- Research App: I really like that Apple is doing this; no-one else could do this kind of research
- Watch: the video was awesome; the new hardware is cool, but my Series 4 doesn’t feel old now; the compass and the always on display are cool, and weren’t leaked before; the new ceramic and titanium versions look insanely great
- iPhone: the naming is great and the lineup finally makes sense; all of the new colors look good, especially the greens; the new camera features are insane: it captures 120 frames per second in 4K to allow for 4K 60 frames with HDR; I really like the wide camera; the new U1 chip seems interesting
Overall the event was pretty good. Way better than last year’s. I’m really looking forward to my new iPad, Apple Arcade and Apple TV+. My iPhone and Apple Watch won’t be upgraded this year though.
These ads are insanely cool. This is the first time in a while Apple has actually shown iPhones in “regular usage”. Most people don’t ever end up in a situation, like those shown in Apple commercials, but these ads are extremely relatable. I really like the iPhone 11 ads.
Linking to: We Recreated Every Apple Wallpaper
This is insanely cool. I’d love to see a continuation with Mavericks and Catalina.
Five years ago, Apple announced several products in its annual September event
This was the first Apple Event I “watched” live. Since I only had a Windows laptop back then (and Apple’s stream would only work on Apple hardware), “watching” meant refreshing the live blog on Apple’s site.
Linking to: Christian Reber on Twitter
Keep the team and focus on MicrosoftToDo, and no one will be angry for not shutting down Wunderlist.
Acquisitions like this are never about the app itself. When Microsoft wanted to get started in the mobile space, they needed people who knew how to build mobile apps. Both Sunrise and Wunderlist were beautiful apps made by extremely talented people.
While I don’t expect this to work out, I think it would be awesome if it did.
Just this week, Apple released a beta version of an Apple Music web player. This website will most likely be a replacement for iTunes on Windows. But I don’t use Windows. So why do I care?
iTunes (now Music) is one of the few apps, I always keep open on my Mac. Ever since macOS Sierra, I’ve been having a lot of performance problems with the native macOS client. Even though this website is in beta right now, I still wanted to compare the performance of the native client to the web app in some very basic categories1.
|Category||Music on macOS||Music Web Beta|
|Launch to Play||10.1 sec||5.5 sec|
|Switching to "For You"||4.1 sec||4.2 sec|
|Play song||0.5 sec||2.4 sec|
|Skipping within a song||instant||noticeable delay|
Music on macOS is slow. It still has all of the baggage from iTunes and isn’t nearly as responsive as Music on iOS. What surprised me the most, was how long it took to launch. A reason for this might be, that Music still has to load my cloud library every time. This gets annoying quickly.
Ram usage was about the same when in use, showing how inefficient the Mac client really is. On the other hand, the Cocoa (probably also Carbon and WebKit) client on the Mac was able to save on memory when not in use. For most people though, the 50-megabyte difference won’t be noticeable.
I wasn’t yet able to test battery life with the two music clients. If you have all of your music downloaded right now, the web app will most likely consume more of your battery life. If you stream music through the Music app for macOS right now, energy usage should be about the same.
What have we learned?
First of all, the Mac client is extremely inefficient. I’m very surprised at how much memory it uses and how long it actually takes to launch.
Secondly, when done right, web apps can be just as responsive and efficient as native ones. Many people criticize companies for only offering a slow web site. This isn’t necessarily the fault of the technology, but instead the result of bad programming practices.
Thirdly, even though it’s still in beta, the Apple Music web app is very capable. On my Mac, I’ll continue to use the native client, but on every other platform, I’ll start using the Apple Music website. No more Spotify account just for listening to music on Linux
1 All tests were carried out a MacBook connected to ethernet without any other open apps. The browser I used was Safari 13 on macOS Catalina. The Music app is on version Version 188.8.131.528. All of the music played for these tests was stored in the cloud. Not downloaded.
Linking to: It’s Facebook Official, Dating Is Here
I’m not very confident in this.
Apps using the framework will get access to a large array of sensors, including ambient light sensor, accelerometer, gyroscope, location metrics, keyboard metrics, pedometer, Apple Watch heart rate, Apple Watch wrist detection and even usage reports for apps.
This kind of data could allow for some pretty interesting studies when used in combination with Apple’s new activity classification in CoreML.
Linking to: NodeJS + EJS + Stylus + Sqlite
This is the template I use for developing NodeJS apps. Most of my projects need a database, which is why my template includes Sqlite. If you don’t need a database, you can just remove the package (and setup code).
Linking to: Notarizing Your Mac Software for macOS Catalina
To make this transition easier and to protect users on macOS Catalina who continue to use older versions of software, we’ve adjusted the notarization prerequisites until January 2020.
Glad to see them moving the deadline back by a bit. Required notarization is definitely a big step towards a completely locked-down macOS, but we’ll surely appreciate the security benefits in the next couple of years.
This looks very plausible. As I wrote in my previous article, many parts of the OS for these glasses are starting to show up in iOS. I’ve personally seen a small number of references to different features in the last couple of betas. These include summoning Siri by tapping the headset1. All of this makes me think, that Apple has to announce this headset soon.
1 Presumably a touch surface (similar to the one on the Apple Pencil 2) on the right side of the headset.
Earlier this year, Bloomberg published a report about Apple’s upcoming AR headset. This report mentioned a release date of 2020. Another analyst wrote about the device going into production this year. If Apple would announce the headset next year, it wouldn’t go into production this year. iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch were all announced and shown months before entering production.
Entering mass production always results in some leaks. Since Apple wants to avoid leaks of a new product in a new category, they try to announce the product before testing the production process.
I expect the release of Apple’s AR headset to play out something like this:
- September 2019: Apple announces the headset at their annual September event. This keynote is Apple’s most popular event. We get a quick preview, but no availability or pricing info.
- Winter 2019/2020: An SDK gets released. The headset will most likely include support for RealityKit and SwiftUI. I expect these to be the only UI frameworks for this device.
- Spring 2020: Pricing and availability get announced. The headset will be released a couple of weeks after a spring event.
This release schedule is based on the successful introduction of the Apple Watch.
At this point, it seems very likely, that Apple will announce something new at the September event. The reported dates and some references inside iOS 13 indicate, that we will see the new headset this year.
That’s why I still have some hope for an exciting announcement.
In the last couple of days, I wrote a little microblogging system in NodeJS. That’s why today I’m happy to announce the LarzTech Microblog. This is a quick way for me to post news, announcements and more.
Bookmark it; read it; have fun
“We’ve looked at the design and features of some of those apps and said we can make this a bit more of a Mac experience through changes that are independent of the use of Catalyst, but are just design team decisions,” Federighi said. “When I read some of the initial reviews of those apps, people were saying, ‘Obviously this technology is causing them to do things that don’t feel Mac-like.’ Honestly, 90% of those were just decisions that designers made … People took that as ‘this feels iOS-y’ and therefore they thought it was a technology thing. Actually, it was a designer preference. So part of [the upgrade] is we said we’ve got to co-evolve with our user base around the aesthetics of the Mac experience. And so we made some adjustments to the apps.”
I’m very curious to see how good these apps will be. The technology is very solid at this point, allowing for almost perfect ports. While I don’t think the problems with last years ports were the designers’ faults, there is a lot of potential for design improvements.
We already saw some of the updates to the News apps at WWDC. Now we just have to hope Stocks and Voice Memos get just as much attention as the new Catalist apps.
Linking to: Initial Thoughts on iPadOS: A New Path Forward
iPadOS suggests that the company has identified a new path for the iPad as a third platform that combines well-trodden ideas from macOS with the intuitive, nimble nature of iOS. To a certain extent, this was true of iPad before, particularly since the days of iOS 11, but calling it iPadOS shows a renewed commitment that may provide the necessary impetus for more consistent updates over the next few years.
I’m very excited to see where Apple takes the new iPadOS next. While there are some rough corners left, the iPad can finally be classified as a computer.
Wow! The second day in a row, 9to5Mac’s Gui Rambo has released screenshots of an upcoming OS. This time it‘s macOS‘s turn. The images included in the report show the new Music and TV apps. Both of these apps feature translucent sidebars with icons. The TV app also includes a toolbar with tabs. Even though the new Music app is still based on iTunes, the UI has been completely decluttered and rethought. Old music-focused features from iTunes still seem to be present in the new Music app. The new macOS TV app seems to be a direct mazipanification of the iOS one. This might not be a bad thing: The iOS TV app is very solid and the UI is exactly what you would expect from a media consumption app, even on macOS. Overall I really like the design of these apps. Even though Rambo‘s leaks spoil WWDC, they also get me a lot more excited!
In classic iOS, when you tapped down on list items or buttons, they’d instantly light up in vibrant color. The standard color was a bright cheerful blue. In iOS 7 through 12, the tapdown state is the color of dirty dishwater.
This is true for many parts of the iOS 7 redesign. Look no further than the default UIKit button. It’s nothing more than just a blue label, that turns grey when you touch it. This boring look of the default UIKit elements is what I think is the cause of the heavy theming of apps and the creation of custom controls. The look of the iOS controls stands in contrast to the richness of the controls in macOS. While you can choose to set all controls to a boring grey (like I did), the default option is a nice blue. You can even choose pink, yellow and green as your contrast color. This is ignoring the nice gradients on toolbars and checkboxes. While I hope, Apple puts some more effort in the default UIKit components, I’m almost afraid they won’t. At least not this year. This means that we’re stuck theming our apps for yet another year.
The Apple-designed A10 Fusion chip brings improved performance in games, and for the first time on iPod, immersive augmented reality (AR) experiences and Group FaceTime, making it easy to chat with family members, friends or colleagues simultaneously.
iOS is the world’s largest gaming platform, and with three times faster graphics, games on the new iPod touch run even smoother and look even more beautiful. This fall gamers can look forward to Apple Arcade, a game subscription service with over 100 new and exclusive games with no ads or additional purchases, and the ability to download games for offline play.
This, I think is the biggest selling point of the new iPod Touch. The iPod is the perfect device for playing Apple Arcade games. In my opinion, the combination of Apple Arcade and this device makes for an awesome handheld console.
I really appreciate that Apple makes niche products again. After trying to over-simplify their lineup, iPad Mini and this new iPod Touch are proof, that Apple doesn‘t exclusively care about the bottom line. Nice!
Gui Rambo is back at it again: This time he got his hands on actual screenshots of iOS 13. So here are the most relevant parts:
- We have a dark mode! This year it might finally happen…
- Skeuomorphism in the new screenshot editing UI! The pallet of tools for the screenshot UI uses shadows and the pens have a round look. Let‘s hope we get back the realistic look of iOS.
- The all-new Reminders app looks awesome. As a heavy Reminders user myself, I really appreciate the fact, that Apple still cares about the app and considers it important enough to redesign it.[^]
- Find My is the resulting app from the merger of Find My Friends and Find my iPhone. While I don‘t love the name (I suspect it will be changed before WWDC), I feel like the merger makes sense. The icon looks very nice too!
iOS 13 probably won‘t be the huge redesign, we‘ve all been waiting for. Instead, we‘ll be getting small increments, which will eventually lead to a complete redesign. The beginnings, that we are seeing right now (Skeuomorphism & new Reminders UI) look very promising.
This looks so cool!
Once again 9to5Mac’s Gui Rambo has published a big report about features coming in iOS 13 and macOS 10.15. This particular report focuses on the developer side of things and new frameworks.
There will be new Siri intents developers can adopt, including media playback, search, voice calling, event ticketing, message attachment, train trip, flight, airport gate and seat information.
Nothing special here. A lot more Siri intents are needed and this is a step in the right direction.
Developers porting their iOS apps to the Mac will have access to new APIs that allow their UIKit apps to integrate with Mac-specific features such as the Touch Bar and menu bar (including keyboard shortcuts). UIKit apps on the Mac will also be able to open multiple windows.
We already knew that we (developers) will be able to port over iOS apps to the Mac. The thing we didn’t know so far was whether Marzipan apps will be able to have multiple windows. Now we know.
AR on Apple’s platforms will gain significant improvements this year, including a brand new Swift-only framework for AR and a companion app that lets developers create AR experiences visually.
I’m in trouble! This companion app sounds very much like my app Yttrium. It still seems like you have to use a Mac to design and build everything, but this is Apple at their best: Sherlocking other peoples products. It’s fine if they do a good job at it!
On the other hand, the new framework sounds very interesting. We already have SceneKit and SpriteKit for AR. Both are gaming focused frameworks. If Apple really wants the future to be AR, they still need a UI framework. I’m not sure whether this is it, but it’s very exciting nonetheless.
ARKit gets the ability to detect human poses.
Cool but not revolutionary
For game developers, the OS will support controllers with touch pads and stereo AR headsets.
With a new version of CoreML, developers will be able to update their machine learning models on-device.
This is great because CoreML models will be able to improve themselves the more you use them. It’s also great, because it means, that the app you are using won’t have to send any raw data back to the developer, just to improve a model.
Apple is also adding a new API for developers to do sound analysis with machine learning.
I’m all over this. Expanding ML frameworks beyond image recognition is really important, and with integration into CreateML this could be huge.
With a new API, apps will be able to capture photos from external devices such as cameras and SD cards, without having to go through the Photos app.
Basically addressing one of Nilay Patel’s problems with the iPad Pro
On the Mac, apps will be able to offer file provider extensions, improving the way certain apps such as Dropbox can integrate with Finder.
Cleaning up the user folder
This is another great report from 9to5Mac and now WWDC can’t come fast enough. Especially since I’ll be there.
Today I released an enormous update to my app Yttrium. This update is a complete rewrite and overhauls the entire way the app functions. Instead of using a layer-based system Yttrium now uses a node/graph-based system. Each object, material, and color has its own node. This makes creating a scene in Yttrium very visual and approachable. The great thing about node-based systems is that you can very quickly go from beginner- to intermediate- to expert-level. Start out with
Color nodes and scale up to writing custom geometry shaders.
Yttrium 2.0 also has a lot of other features besides the new UI:
You can finally rotate objects around all axis. This can be done in the
Positionnode. You might have to experiment with the values because they are not based on degrees.
There is also the ability to link custom objects. These objects aren't directly imported into your file, but rather linked to the original object file on your iPad/iPhone. This was done in order to keep files small and not overload older devices when opening files. When you reopen older files you might find, that you have to re-link custom objects, but I'm working on getting it all figured out.
With the inclusion of the material node, you can create materials with colors for diffuse, normal, reflection…. The nice thing about these options is, that you don't need to touch them if you don't want to. To change the color of a material, just connect a
Colornode to the diffuse property of the material.
Another option on a material is the
Geometry Shader. This allows you to connect a
Shadernode and write custom shader code for the geometry of the object. You can do some pretty cool stuff like animating water with this shader, that you can try out yourself, by copy-pasting this into a
float amp = 0.2;
float freq = 15.0;
vec2 nrm = _geometry.position.xz;
float len = length(nrm)+0.0001;
nrm /= len;
_geometry.position.xz = nrm * (len + amp * sin(freq * _geometry.position.y + u_time * 10.0));
There are many other small improvements that you will discover in the update. I didn't list them all, because some are specific to the new way that Yttrium operates.
I'm releasing this update knowing that 2.0 isn't perfect. Most things have gotten better, but some things have gotten worse (look at the AR preview for example). If you found a bug or have a feature request, please contact me. I'm very happy with the way Yttrium 2.0 turned out and am excited to improve it in future versions. Especially with the rumors in mind, that the next version of iOS will have a huge focus on productivity.
I’ve tried to start a blog a couple of times. Because I’m a very lazy person, I never got beyond a few posts. After my most recent attempt at starting a blog, I was left with this domain. Having published my first app, I forwarded this domain to my app’s website.
While developing Yttrium I learned a lot from the community. Now I want to give something back. This blog will focus on some niche topics inside the iOS design and development space. If you have any specific niche, you want me to cover, tweet at me.
I want to talk about this website more in the future, but for now, it’s basically a little blog and an ad for my app. So expect my first “real” post in the next couple of weeks.
2019 Lars Augustin (@zhcet4)