Archive for September 13, 2017

Wednesday, September 13, 2017 [Tweets] [Favorites]

iTunes 12.7 Drops Apps and Ringtones

Apple:

The new iTunes focuses on music, movies, TV shows, podcasts, and audiobooks. Apps for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch are now exclusively available in the new App Store for iOS.

[…]

If you have an iOS app, ringtone, or book that’s no longer available for redownload, you can move that content to your iOS device while plugged in to a computer with a USB cable.

Apple:

With iOS 11, you can redownload purchased tones that you bought using your Apple ID.

I suppose this has been a long time coming, but I will miss the lost functionality. I preferred to browse the App Store from my Mac, and I liked the automatic app backups. Now I’ve lost the ability to revert an app if a new version introduces a problem or limitation. And, presumably, restoring a device from backup will be slower and impossible offline because it will have to redownload all the apps.

See also: Nick Heer, MacRumors, Kirk McElhearn, Jeff Johnson, Rob Griffiths.

Jason Sims:

New feature in iTunes 12.7: the column browser no longer remembers its height; it resets to 3 rows tall every time you view a playlist.

I see this bug as well.

Update (2017-09-15): Alexandre Colucci:

If your “iTunes Media” is an alias to an external unplugged disk, iTunes 12.7 will crash at launch.

Paul Kafasis:

Today, we’re releasing Fission 2.4 with revamped ringtone saving. Using Fission, you can once again save custom tones for use on your iOS device. While the new iTunes makes it much less obvious, it is indeed still possible to load custom tones onto your iOS device, right from your Mac.

See also: Hacker News.

Update (2017-09-19): See also: Kirk McElhearn.

Craig Grannell:

Apple should steal an idea from Google. It should be possible to buy apps directly from iTunes Preview, and choose where to send them. Better: iTunes Preview should grow to become the entire iOS App Store online, giving greater visibility to apps, and freeing browsing and buying them from the confines of iOS.

Pierre Lebeaupin:

Yes, some of us still don’t buy into the idea that the handheld device is necessarily self-sufficient; I mean I’d very much like to see you add freely distributed music (which as a result is not in the iTunes store) to your iPhone music library, or back up your iPhone to a non-Internet backup location, using solely the iPhone itself. As long as I can’t do that and have to sync, might as well use sync for everything (and honestly, I don’t mind sync per se).

And of course, speaking as a developer-adjacent person, I have to wonder what the impact is when potential customers who come across a link to an iOS app while browsing the web on their desktop… can no longer buy it there. There will be lost sales until Apple improves the situation (QR codes would be a start, for instance).

Update (2017-09-20): Ted Landau:

Not a surprise, but its appears the new (app-less) Mac version of iTunes is required to recognize connected iOS devices running iOS 11.

Kirk McElhearn:

I have four iOS devices, and if I had to download these updates individually to each device, that would saturate my bandwidth for about an hour (15 minutes or so for each device). Not long ago, I had a 4 Mbps connection; the same updates would have taken four hours for all my devices. And this doesn’t count the many other apps that I have to update.

[…]

If Apple won’t restore app management and syncing to iTunes, they should add it to the Mac App Store app, or create a new app for syncing all content. Punishing those users with sub-standard internet connections is wrong.

Update (2017-09-21): See also: John Voorhees.

Update (2017-09-26): Kirk McElhearn:

Here’s the thing. iTunes does suffer from performance issues. But they’re not related to some perceived “bloat” caused by the number of features in the app. If you don’t use the features, they don’t get in the way; and if some do perturb you, you can hide many of them. Don’t use iTunes for movies? You can hide the Movies entry in the Media Picker, and never see them again. Never listen to podcasts with iTunes? Hide that too, and don’t pretend that the existence of podcast in iTunes affects your music listening.

There is one place where Apple could trim down iTunes, and they will never do this, no matter how many people complain: it’s the tight integration of the iTunes Store in your media libraries. When iTunes 12 was released three years ago, Apple wove the iTunes Store into every part of the app. Your media libraries – even if they only contain music you’ve ripped from CDs – communicate with the iTunes Store constantly.

Update (2017-10-09): Tim Hardwick:

Apple has quietly released iTunes 12.6.3, which reintroduces the ability to download App Store apps and ringtones from within the iTunes desktop software.

Apple is making this version of iTunes available because "certain business partners might still need to use iTunes to install apps", but the download is basically available to anyone looking to reinstate the functionality that was removed in iTunes 12.7.

Doug Adams:

I suppose that for people who felt ambushed by installing iTunes 12.7 and weren’t able to get their Apps and Ringtones in order, this will enable some extra time to do so. But I wouldn’t want to stick around on this version. Apple has warned that 12.6.3 won’t provide notifications for future updates and it presumably does not have 12.7’s new features and fixes. So once you’ve made any adjustments (say, getting your Fabulous Ringtones Collection uploaded in toto to your devices, extricated older iOS apps and so on) you may want to upgrade back to 12.7.

Update (2017-11-01): John Gruber:

But even putting that aside, it seems to me that managing these ringtones is something iOS should be able to handle on its own — especially now that iOS has a Files app. There aren’t many things left where you need to connect to a Mac or PC to manage on iOS, but ringtones are one.

Apple TV 4K, Still a Hobby

Josh Centers:

Outside of improved video, don’t expect much in the way of improvements. The new A10X Fusion chip, Gigabit Ethernet port, simultaneous dual band Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 5.0 support are nice additions, but they’re not game-changing.

[…]

Frankly, this hardware is an enormous disappointment. The fourth-generation Apple TV was already behind the curve when Apple launched it without 4K in 2015, and now that it has caught up with the competition, it’s still about $100 more expensive than comparable devices.

Josh Centers:

Apple: “Here’s the new Apple TV. $150.”

Users: “No thanks. Fire Stick is good for $40.”

Apple: “What if we raised the price to $180?”

Juli Clover:

Alongside the new 4K Apple TV, Apple today quietly released a new, slightly redesigned Siri Remote to go along with it. Priced at $59, the updated remote features a new more prominent Menu button with a white circle around it.

This is better, but I think the remote needs a complete redesign. And I don’t think they have the on-screen interface right yet, either. Overall, it’s really surprising how little has fundamentally improved in the last two years, and how the strategy remains confused. In retrospect, I wish I had not invested in video content from Apple.

See also: Hacker News, Ryan Johnson.

Update (2017-09-15): Ken Segall:

Common sense says the current Siri Remote would be replaced at the first opportunity. And the unveiling of the Apple TV 4K was an excellent opportunity.

Instead, Apple “let it ride” in the Remote department. Not exactly the behavior of a company that puts the highest priority on the customer experience.

See also: Accidental Tech Podcast.

Update (2017-09-21): Mike Rundle:

The new Apple TV can’t play 4K content from YouTube, the place with the largest selection of 4K content.

Nilay Patel:

But the new Apple TV doesn’t support Atmos. And it doesn’t support YouTube in 4K HDR. And it doesn’t have Disney or Marvel movies in 4K HDR. And it makes some 1080p content look less than great.

[…]

The Apple TV also automatically preferences refresh rate over any other setting: if your TV supports 60Hz HDR10 but only 30Hz Dolby Vision (like 2016 LG OLEDs), the Apple TV will pick HDR10, even though HDR10 looks worse than Dolby Vision. Apple told me that’s because it wants the interface and games to run as smoothly as possible; it’s found that the interface judders at 30Hz. So you’ll get worse HDR but a smoother interface, all because the Apple TV won’t switch modes.

The lack of mode switching also means that Apple’s picking its own video upscaling and processing system over whatever’s in your TV. Your TV just thinks it’s getting 4K HDR video all the time. It won’t know that it’s actually displaying an HD source, and won’t do any of the tricks 4K TVs do to make those sources look better.

Update (2017-09-22): John Gruber:

It is baffling to me that Apple didn’t redesign the remote control to make it obvious at a touch which way it’s oriented. The raised white ring around the Menu button is an improvement, but it’s truly the least Apple could have done. I really wish they’d either made it asymmetric (wedge-shaped, perhaps) or used texture to denote orientation along the back and sides. Nobody loves this remote. Most people I know outright dislike it. And Apple left it almost unchanged.

[…]

Apple may well have good technical or legal reasons for not supporting VP9. Apple TV users don’t care. They just want YouTube videos to look great on their TVs.

Felix Schwarz:

Ok, so the white ring on the new #SiriRemote is on the Menu button, which is now also sharply recessed.

#SiriRemote packaging: 2015 vs.2017. Skeumorphism vs. flatness with wrong button colors.

Update (2017-09-26): Joe Rossignol:

Beyond the return of a Gigabit Ethernet port and the removal of the USB-C diagnostic port, which we learned about before the teardown, the Apple TV 4K’s design is largely the same as the previous Apple TV.

Josh Centers:

As an indication of how minor tvOS 11 is, you probably won’t notice anything different after you install it!

Update (2017-10-01): See also: Accidental Tech Podcast.

Update (2017-11-09): See also: David Pogue.

macOS 10.13 High Sierra Shipping Soon

Juli Clover:

macOS High Sierra, the new version of the macOS operating systems for Macs, will be released to the public on Monday, September 25, according to Apple’s macOS High Sierra website.

That’s nearly a week after the iOS 11 and watchOS 4 release date, with those software updates coming on Tuesday, September 19.

David Pogue:

Still, there’s a lot of useful stuff. Here’s what you can look forward to.

Howard Oakley:

I cannot understand why Apple wants to make High Sierra so unattractive at this late stage. Failure to offer APFS on Fusion Drives and hard disks indicates that High Sierra is being released before it is ready for much of the desktop Mac market. During the summer Apple recognised that APFS was not yet ready for use on hard disks, but has pressed ahead with its release regardless.

Lloyd Chambers:

Accordingly, MPG hereby raises that 3 month ‘wait’ recommendation to a full six months from here on in. That’s because (a) a change in file system is a major change with repercussions and (b) Apple cannot be trusted to respect users or their data or their workflow, with poor judgment seem repeatedly many times over in recent years. The name for this macOS release is apt.

Remember, Apple ships on a calendar basis. Not when requisite software quality is achieved—if the bar is too high, the bar is lowered and the software ships on schedule. This has been going on for years and now with iOS and macOS tied together with APFS and iCloud, it won’t stop—the iPhone drives all.

Update (2017-09-19): John Gruber:

I have all-flash drives in both my MacBook Pro and iMac, but I’m not in any hurry to switch to APFS. And since drives that can be updated are automatically updated to APFS when you update to High Sierra, I’m in no rush to update to High Sierra.

iPhone X

This seems like a device that you’d really have to try in person to evaluate. The screen is presumably great (OLED, P3, True Tone), but I can’t tell how much better from photos or videos. Does the larger screen provide much benefit given the odd shape? How hard is it to reach different parts of the screen, e.g. the top right corner for Control Center? How does it feel to gesture instead of pressing the home button? Is it uncomfortable to hold without a case like the iPhone 6s? How useful is Portrait Lighting? Switching apps by swiping the bottom of the display does look incredibly useful.

The main appeal of Face ID to me is that Touch ID sometimes has trouble with wet or dirty fingers, and it doesn’t work at all with gloves. However, if it’s true that Face ID doesn’t work with sunglasses or winter clothing that would be worse. And will having to look at it feel burdensome or slow? With Touch ID you can unlock the phone before it’s even facing you.

The notch seems to be the new camera bump, only worse. It doesn’t look good, it cuts into the content, and it seems to bring a lot of software complications and compromises. I can’t tell whether this is something everyone will get used to and forget about or whether it will be relentlessly mocked until Apple eventually changes the design.

Given the price and availability of the iPhone X, I think Apple succeeded in that the iPhone 8 looks perfectly fine in comparison. I will be really interested to see how well the iPhone 8 Plus sells. It does not seem to be obsoleted by the X.

If I were getting a new iPhone today, I would get another iPhone SE. I just love that size and how comfortable it is in the hand and pocket. I hope it gets an update soon, though. The design is fine, but I’d like to see a faster processor, wireless charging, water resistance, barometer, 3D Touch, and better cameras, display, and speakers. It’s a good deal at the current price, but I wish Apple didn’t couple the size and price.

Update (2017-09-15): Ken Segall:

Months ago, I suggested that this would be Apple’s big chance to right the naming ship after all the S silliness of the past. It would have been an extraordinary act of common sense to unite the entire 2017 iPhone family under a single umbrella.

[…]

Face ID looked amazing, and it’s not hard to imagine this technology being key to a more secure future.

But there was one little “huh?” moment. I’m talking about the two-step process of getting into the iPhone X. You show it your face, then you swipe up to see the home screen.

That’s one more step more than it takes with Touch ID.

John Gruber:

There were, of course, early attempts to embed a Touch ID sensor under the display as a Plan B. But Apple became convinced that Face ID was the way to go over a year ago. I heard this yesterday from multiple people at Apple, including engineers who’ve been working on the iPhone X project for a very long time. They stopped pursuing Touch ID under the display not because they couldn’t do it, but because they decided they didn’t need it.

[…]

I was wrong about what Apple would call it, but I still say every single point I made arguing that they would and should pronounce it “ex” was correct.

[…]

But what I dislike more than the notch isn’t the notch itself but that Apple is fully embracing the notch in software. I really wish their software design rendered the “ears” with black backgrounds while using apps. […] In landscape, the notch looks like a joke. I think Jony Ive either lost a bet or lost his mind. It looks silly, and to pretend otherwise is nonsense. I’m OK with this because I never use my phone in landscape other than when using the camera, watching videos, looking at photos, or playing games — and iOS 11 hides the notch with black bars by default in those use cases. But this looks just awful — and that screenshot was taken from Apple’s own video advising developers on how to handle the notch in their UIs.

Dean Jackson:

Apple has made a proposal to CSS about how to design for iPhone X's round corners and notch.

Craig Federighi:

Most sunglasses let through enough IR light that Face ID can see your eyes even when the glasses appear to be opaque.

Nick Heer:

With the iPhone X, though, both of the new charging features feel like a bit of a tease: neither a faster charger nor an inductive charging mat are included with the most premium, tomorrow’s-world-today iPhone model. I’m not complaining about the price of the iPhone X, for what it’s worth, nor am I necessarily making a value-for-money argument. But, given the premise of the iPhone X, I feel like bundling at least one of the two new charging features would have been welcomed.

See also: Everything You Need to Know About the iPhone X’s Controversial Notch, 50 New Features in iPhone X.