Google Motion Stills

Today must be bizarro day as Google has mastered Apple’s live photos. Motion Stills (free) is a new iOS app that extracts the little videos that are created when you take a live photo, applies some very effective image stabilization and lets  you export the result — with or without sound — as a GIF or a brief .MOV clip. Like this (click to watch):

Screen Shot 2016-06-07 at 5.27.24 PM

It’s super cool and finally gets those clips off of your phone. I did a little experimentation today and I’ll have a good look at this app tomorrow. Until then, grab it, play around and explore #motionstill on Instagram for inspiration.

[Via The Loop]

The iTunes problem


Now 15 years old, Apple’s iTunes is like The Borrow in Harry Potter. As the Weasley family grew, new floors, rooms and wings were added, one on top of the other, resulting in a confounding structure that only its builders understand.

Today, “The world’s best and easiest to use jukebox software” is anything but.

Just this morning I sat at my desk and launched iTunes. My goal was to put the Monument Valley soundtrack on repeat. If only I were a wizard.

Let’s play, “How do I make an album repeat in iTunes 12.3?” Well, here’s Play and Shuffle, but no repeat:

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Perhaps it’s up here. There’s shuffle again, but no repeat:

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 9.19.25 AM


Weird. Maybe if I minimize the window a button will reveal itself. Nope.

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 9.19.50 AM

One last try. Maybe the menu bar? Oh, there it is!

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 9.20.26 AM

No keyboard shortcut, no button, no option in the app’s preferences to make it a button. “Repeat” is not an obscure function that most people won’t use. I shouldn’t have to spend two minutes digging to find it.

I want to love iTunes but it’s at the point where it needs to be scrapped completely and re-worked. I should’t need the Marauder’s Map to find basic functions.

Using your iPhone is easier with these great apps

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

workflow_3dtouchHands 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.

  1. Tap My Workflows on the app’s main screen.
  2. Scroll to the bottom and tap Settings.
  3. 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.



sparkWhile 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 (, 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.


cmraplsOne 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.

My wish for OS X Mail


Here’s a wish for Apple’s Mail. When I’m creating a rule that depends on an address, Mail should live-search my Contacts as I type in this field. Instead it does nothing. If I’m working with an unfamiliar address, I must abandon the rule creation, find the address, copy it and then start over.

It’s not “your children have died in a fire,” but still irksome.

Apple’s new iPhone ad is a gorgeous short film

This is my favorite iPhone ad, hands down. First, it’s instantly relatable. We’ve all done what’s depicted in this lovely little short, like snapping a beautiful meal or running to catch up with friends after photographing an impromptu moment. We’ve also felt the emotion of the parent cheering on his kid, the excitement of a rock concert or the trust in asking a stranger to photograph you.

Plus, the ad’s scenes and music create a lovely mood of playfulness and sentiment. All without being heavy-handed or maudlin. Congratulations, Apple. This is a world-class spot.

Apple’s new product categories

The most compelling part of Apple’s Q2 financial results call was Tim Cook announcing that we can expect the company to explore “new product categories.” First of all, he used the plural “categories,” and noted that one of those projects could debut this year.

Cook said Apple is “…hard at work on amazing new hardware, software and services we can’t wait to introduce this fall and throughout 2014.” I am so looking forward to what’s coming.

Ken Segall on iPhone naming conventions


Ken Segall, former creative lead at TBWA/Chiat Day and author of Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple’s Success, expressed his dismay at Apple’s iPhone naming conventions in a recent blog post. Specifically, he dislikes the “S” nomenclature that Apple introduced with the iPhone 3GS:

“Tacking an S onto the existing model number sends a rather weak message. It says that this is our “off-year” product, with only modest improvements. If holding off on the big number change achieved some great result, I might think otherwise. But look what happened with iPhone 5.”

The knee-jerk reaction is to agree. On some base consumer level, the “S” seems to signify a minor update to its predecessor. If  you own the full number update, there’s no need to buy the S follow-up. It’s only marginally improved. But sales tell a different story, as this chart from MacStories indicates:


While some customers might poo-poo the S models, I see them as the perfected version of the full-number upgrades. The iPhone 3G was a nice device; the 3GS a lot nicer. Likewise, the iPhone 4S is a more appealing phone than the iPhone 4.

At one point in his article, Segall writes:

“I think it’s safe to say that if you’re looking for a new car, you’re looking for a 2013 model – not a 2012S. What’s important is that you get the latest and greatest.”

No, I’d much rather have the 2012S with improved braking system, perfected suspension and tweaked gas mileage. It’s the superior version of the 2012 model.

But that’s not the only reason to “go S.” The S updates often mean a speed bump, which prompts developers to release richer games and denser apps. Plus, pre-existing apps that push the full number version hard run a little easier on the beefed up S release.

Another good reason comes down to cases. Those who buy a full number model as well as a pricey environment case like the LifeProof case (which I love)  or a battery supplement like the Mophie Juice Pack (I love this, too) can upgrade without having to sacrifice their case, should they choose to buy the S.

I’ve been buying S-only since the 3GS. I have a 4S now and I’ll buy the iPhone 5’s successor. I suspect that the S has more of a negative effect on the “trendy” buyers who use name alone to decide if an iPhone is cutting-edge new or simply a rehash.

Even with all of that said, there’s no guarantee the iPhone 5’s successor will be called “iPhone 5S.” I’ve heard that the “S” in “3GS” stood for “speed,” and in the iPhone 4S it meant “Siri.” So unless the next iPhone has a marquee feature that starts with the letter S, it might not bear that moniker at all.

Steve Jobs reportedly worked on upcoming iPhone models (Updated)


Speaking with San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, Apple’s government liaison Michael Foulkes suggested that Steve Jobs influenced the design of the next two iPhone models, according to The San Francisco Examiner. Specifically, Foulkes said those designs “precede Tim Cook.”

Apple’s design process typically takes several years on major products like the iPhone, and I suppose it could be true that Jobs had influence over the iPhone 5’s successors. However, a lot of subsequent development has happened since Jobs passed, and I can only assume that the final product will differ from the concepts and ideas that Jobs saw. It’s really not fair to call the next iteration of the iPhone a Steve Jobs design, as attractive as that might be.

When the iPhone 5, the current generation iPods and the EarPods were released, I wondered if they were the last products whose design and function Steve had influenced in a significant way. I can’t say for sure, of course, but I still suspect they are.

Update:I could be wrong.