I famously suck at organizing URLs I want to save. The little blue globes in Mac OS X’s Dock — my current method — are all but useless. Dropmark seems like it could be a great alternative. I’ll have a review up on Unclutterer on Friday the 8th.
This week Path introduced a new feature called Coverstory, and published a whole 33 words of introduction on its blog. After a few days of use I can see why: it’s an interesting feature with baffling execution. Here’s a look.
Taking a cue from Instagram and Snapchat, Coverstory lets Path users record and share 10 seconds worth of video that disappears after 24 hours. You can add music and text and, once a video is shared, see a preview in place of your cover photo. If someone you’re following publishes a Coverstory, a number appears next to a new pink play button on your cover photo. That’s the same button you tap to record a Coverstory video, which is where the problems begin.
The first time you launch the app after updating, a pop-up window briefly explains the new feature. Dismiss it and find the pink play button on your cover photo. Tap it to move to the record screen (right).
The top half of the screen is a video preview. Beneath that are icons representing how many active videos you and your followers have published as well as a big record button. Tap the “+” to begin recording.
When you’re done shooting, you can add one of 17 music tracks. From there, hit publish and you’re done. Kind of.
There’s nothing in the timeline to indicate that you, or someone you follow, has published a Coverstory. Which is extremely odd, as that’s where all updates appear. The timeline is where users are trained to look for news. Instead, when someone you follow publishes a Coverstory, a small “1” appears in the pink play button on your cover photo. The first time I saw this I was very confused, as I thought it indicated I had published a video when I hadn’t.
Additionally, Coverstory videos can take several seconds to begin playing. In my testing using WiFi and cellular data across three phones, I stared at a static image for up to six seconds with no progress bar, spinning gear or indication of any kind that something was happening. Many people will assume it’s not working in that amount of time and move on.
Coverstory is cute and can be a lot of fun. Unfortunately, it’s confusing and apparently hasn’t sparked any enthusiasm from the Path team. I use Path daily, and I’m disappointed with this potentially compelling feature.
You’ll need Path version 6.0.2 on iOS or 4.4 on Android to try Coverstory. Here’s something odd: Path is has an average 2.5 star rating on the App Store but 4.25 on the Google Play Store. I use it on both and it’s practically identical.
Earlier this week, Google released Motion Stills, a free iPhone app that exports the video from Apple’s Live Photos — with or without sound — as a GIF or brief MOV file. The result can be added to your iPhone’s Camera Roll or shared via certain social media channels. The app is dead-simple to use, with image stabilization tech that can tame even the most erratic clip.
I’ve had a great time exporting and sharing MOV files, but lots of trouble with GIFs. I think the latter is an issue with the platforms I’m trying to share to, however. More on that later. First, a few words on Live Photos.
The problems with Live Photos
When Apple demonstrated in 2015 I went nuts. Just press and hold to have images of my perfect little snowflake children come alive whenever I want? Oh, the proud poppa moments just entered ANOTHER LEVEL, BABY. I couldn’t wait to foist these on people.
The trouble has been in sharing them with your friends and family members who don’t have an iPhone running the latest iOS 9, as well as on social media.
You could take the DIY approach, which involves connecting your iPhone to your computer, launching Image Capture, sorting by kind and then importing all of the MOV files to your computer.
If you want to do this on a Windows computer, navigate to your iOS device in File Explorer and give your machine permission to browse the internal storage. From there, you should be able to see everything in the DCIM folder on your iOS device.
Not the slickest process.
Services got on board as well, and now Tumblr and Google Photos officially support the technology. Facebook does too, but only for those using the official iOS app on a phone running the latest version of iOS 9 (sorry, Paper users).
While you can get Live Photos off of your device and out to the world, the best experience is still on a compatible Apple gadget.
A blurry mess
Whenever Apple shows off a new photo technology or app, I have two simultaneous thoughts:
- Wow, I can’t wait to try that.
- My photography skills are garbage.
Consider this demo of Live Photos that Phil Schiller gave in 2015. Water ripples before a completely static background. A hiker raises his arms triumphantly before a waterfall. These are terrific Live Photos. Meanwhile, I get this type of thing at the end of my clips, as I tend to lower the phone at the end of a clip.
Google’s image stabilization lets me get results that are very close to Apple’s demo images. How does it work? From Google:
“Our algorithm uses linear programming to compute a virtual camera path that is optimized to recast videos and bursts as if they were filmed using stabilization equipment, yielding a still background or creating cinematic pans to remove shakiness.”
It works very well and has allowed me to get demo-ready results.
Using Motion Stills
To share you first GIF or video, follow these steps:
Launch the app and scroll to the image you want to share. Next, tap the image to bring up the editor:
There are four simple buttons (from left to right):
- Turn the stabilization effect on or off
- Turn sound on or off
- Export your clip
- Close the editor and return to the image library
Pay attention the sound option. In my experience, it’s best to turn off, or else you get three seconds of a sentence or other repeating background noise that becomes annoying very quickly. Also, hit the stabilization button a couple of times to see the difference.
When you’re ready to share, hit the share button to reveal two options: Send GIF and Share Clip:
Tap GIF and the image is created and the Share Sheet appears, ready to go. Hit Share Clip and the same thing happens. In testing this out, I noticed a few little quirks.
This may be the fault of the platforms I’m trying to share GIFs to, but they do not animate. I tried Twitter across various platforms and apps, as well as Facebook and Instagram. Bummer. I did find one little workaround, though.
If you opt to export a MOV and post it to Instagram, you can then share that link to Twitter and view the file that way. Cheap, but there it is.
Unlike my GIF woes, the MOV file worked perfectly. It’s great fun to share a great-looking little clip to Instagram and Facebook with almost zero effort.
This is a fun app that largely does what it’s supposed to do. Give it a try and liberate your Live Photos. As long as they’re not GIFs.
The iPhone’s big, non-transparent volume icon has got to go.
Instead of writing a wish list of iOS changes, I’ve got a single request: eliminate the huge volume icon that commandeers the center of the screen. It’s distracting and outdated. My hope for iOS 9.4 is a new volume icon.
A new feature isn’t necessarily a great feature
Apple introduced 3D Touch with the iPhone 6 in September, 2014. The feature offers two new gestures, “Peek” and “Pop,” which are triggered by the amount of pressure applied to an iPhone’s screen. You can see 3D Touch in action here. It’s pretty neat and can save time, if used properly.
The usefulness of new features like 3D Touch is variable. There are plenty of “Me, too” implementations in the App Store that don’t make your iPhone easier to use, which is the ultimate goal. In the following examples, 3D Touch makes an app significantly better.
Best implementation: Workflow
Hands down, Workflow for iPhone and iPad ($2.99) features the best implementation of Apple’s 3D Touch that I’ve seen. It lets you choose what appears in the resulting pop-up menu (up to four items), ensuring that it’s as useful for you as possible. Here’s how to set it up.
- Tap My Workflows on the app’s main screen.
- Scroll to the bottom and tap Settings.
- Tap 3D Touch Shortcuts
From there you’ll see a list of your workflows. Now, just tap the four you’d like to appear in the 3D Touch menu.
Workflow lets you create, download and share automated, multi-step tasks for your iPhone to perform. Have your phone do anything from order a pizza to move files to services like Dropbox. The 3D Touch implementation here is so helpful that it puts an already useful app way over the top. Save serious amounts of time each day with Workflow and 3D Touch.
While Workflow is my top pick for useful 3D Touch, it’s not the only app that’s making good use of Apple’s fun tech. Readdle’s Spark (https://sparkmailapp.com), a recent “Best of the App Store” selection, does a stellar job by featuring the app’s most common functions: calendar, attachments, search and compose a new message. Simply select any one to jump right to it.
The iconography here is nice and clear as well, and each task is blazing fast. Browsing attachment is especially useful, as they’re presented as a nice list, which is significantly faster than scrolling through a bursting inbox. Spark is a great app and is use of 3D Touch makes it even better.
As we saw with Spark, Instagram for iPhone (free) put the most useful tasks front-and-center. I use Search and Post several times per day. But there’s much more here.
Nearly every link in the app offers Peek and Pop. Press-and-hold on a hashtag to see relevant photos. Do the same to a username for a preview of their latest posts. While holding that preview, swipe up for options like unfollow, enable notifications or share as a message. As with the other apps in this list, Instagram is made easier to use via 3D Touch. Very well done.
One last selection: Camera+ ($2.99). The long-standing camera app by Tap Tap Tap lets you jump right to taking a photo, as well as the proper setting for getting a selfie or a macro shot. This saves so much time previously spend fiddling around with exposure and focus, especially when taking a macro shot.
All of these apps use Apple’s 3D Touch to make using your iPhone faster and easier. That’s just what technology like this should do. Try them out and see for yourself.
I started using Due when it was released about four years ago, and I’d wager that I’ve used it every day since. Today Due reminds me to take meds, to pick up and drop off the kids, to get the mail and so on. I depend on it, and it has never failed me.
Version 2.0 was recently released for iOS and it’s more beautiful and functional that before. I can’t think of another third-party app that’s been on my home screen for four years. It’s a steal at $4.99 for new users. Existing users can upgrade for free and unlock all of the new features for $2.99.
I hope he’s wearing a money belt.
AR-Media is developing augmented reality apps that let travelers use their iPads and iPhones to look into the past. Here, a young man is viewing an virtual overlay of Rome’s Colosseum on his iPad. He’s also saying, “My pockets are fully accessible and all my attention is on this iPad.”
Maybe skip that app.
Flying for iPhone, still in public beta, wants to be on my iPhone so badly I can hear it whispering, “Install meeeee.” This seriously good-looking app shares information you’d expect like departure and arrival times, terminal and gate info (both sides) and weather. It’s also a bit playful, presenting your route data in a fun, novel way (see the video above).
The social aspect looks great, and reminds me of the bits of Gowalla that I enjoyed so much. You can receive “stamps” for achievements and share/compete with your traveling friends. For example, “You crossed the Atlantic Ocean!” Who among your buddies has racked up the most miles?
I don’t have any flights planned in the immediate future (I *might* go to Florida in a few weeks), but I’ll try out Flying as soon as I do. It looks great.
Now that you’ve rented a private jet with your iPhone, why not rent a luxury car? Silvercar rents Audi A4s exclusively, and the whole arrangement can be handled via its free iPhone app. Since Slivercar only rents one make and model, there are no questions about which car to get or what the price will be. It’s the same for everyone.
The service is currently available at three Texas airports only (DFW, Love Field and Austin), but the company expects to be in seven different markets by the end of 2013. According to the app’s description in Apple’s App Store, you can “…exit the plane, and walk directly to your silver Audi A4.”
Just don’t lose your rental agreement, or you’re…well, you know.