Hi there, nice to meet you. Follow me at http://belfong.com/tweets
389 stories

Control is free on the Epic Games Store for one week


Remedy’s excellent supernatural thriller Control is available for free on the Epic Games Store from now until June 17th at 11AM ET. All you need is an Epic Games account — just log in to the store while the deal is live, and you can claim your copy of the game for PC.

If you haven’t played Control before, I highly recommend picking it up. I really liked exploring the game’s spooky paranormal world, and using protagonist Jesse Faden’s psychic abilities to fling objects from the environment at enemies is a blast.

Epic is offering Control as part of its Mega Sale, which also runs through June 17th. Like last year, Epic is offering its $10 Epic Coupons that are applied automatically at checkout on eligible games that cost $14.99 or more during the sale. There are also some big discounts on hit games like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and Cyberpunk 2077.

Read the whole story
1 day ago
2 days ago
Chicago, IL
Share this story

The Reverie Tree

1 Comment
There's a song in Jethro Tull's Songs From the Wood that talks about someone sitting in the "reverie tree."

I think we all have one of those. It's the place where we feel most at peace. 

It's different for everyone, I'm sure, but for me, it's when I'm totally absorbed in something. It's called "flow state" now.

That defines just about every peaceful moment I have. Meditation. Being with Eli 19.10. Writing. Even films, at times. Anything that totally concentrates me. 

One of the unique aspects of this, for me, is that I can get into this state with people. With Eli, it's pretty much instant, and almost always has been. Also, one of the reasons that therapy has done so much for me is that I get into flow state with my therapist. It took about three years, but it happens on a pretty regular basis now, and it makes it possible for me to reflect on things I couldn't face otherwise. 

I'm guessing this is different for extroverts, and that they'd have a very different reverie tree than I do. 

I was driving today (which, like everyone, is one of the places I get ideas), and I suddenly thought about arcades. 

Then about three realizations hit me at once. 

The first was that I always felt comfortable in arcades, even though it was a social situation. I met friends there all the time, but I never had that oppressive awkwardness that I felt in many other situations. 

I think it was because when I played arcade games, I definitely got into flow state. So it wasn't all social interaction. I'd play a game, talk, play again. So even though I was around a lot of people, most of whom I didn't know, I never locked up. 

In contrast, in situations that are entirely social and involve lots of people, I don't have that little bit of restoration, so my battery drains incredibly quickly. I really struggle in those situations. 

Hmm, I was supposed to go from first to second to third. Okay, "many" realizations, not three. 

The last thing I thought of was that I need to create that little buffer for myself. in those situations It could be a person, or an activity, or something. But I can't sit somewhere and try to drift in and out of conversations. 

In that situation, I'm definitely the Titanic.
Read the whole story
3 days ago
I wonder where would be my reverie tree be?
Share this story

Focus Mode and Contextual Computing

1 Share
Focus Mode iPhone Screenshots.PNG

Watching WWDC Monday, one announcement that landed with me was the new Focus feature. (If you follow my podcasts, this shouldn't be a surprise.) Regardless, I've spent the last few days playing with this new feature, and I like it. Focus is like Do Not Disturb, except it solves most of the limitations associated with Do Not Disturb.

First, Build a Wall

With Focus mode, I can set a specific kind of focus. One of mine is Podcasting. When you set up a Focus mode, your Apple devices put up walls to keep out distractions while you work on focused work. That may be the best part of the Focus feature: It starts with a wall. It's then up to you to punch very specific (and small) holes in that wall. The fact that it begins with the concept that everything is blocked is why it works.

Make Exceptions for People

You can then add specific people that can breakthrough. Getting interrupted while trying to make an entertaining show is distracting. So in the case of my Podcasting Focus, the only people that can get through are my podcast partners and my wife.

Make Exceptions for Apps (or Don't)

Next, you can poke holes for app notifications. In the case of podcasting, the only app I'm letting through is Zoom on my Mac. In my "Legal Work" Focus, it's a different set of apps. This is the nice thing about switches and dials. Different areas of focus require different kinds of walls.

Consider Time-Sensitive Notifications

In addition to exceptions for people and apps, you can also make space for time-sensitive notifications to get through. Maybe this is something like a delivery notification or a notice that your Lyft driver is waiting. While I've got this option turned on for some of my Focus setups, it's off for podcasting. Again, no interruptions are allowed when the mic is hot.

Let Folks Know

You can also auto-respond, letting people know you are in Focus mode and giving them a way to breakthrough if something is truly important. I use this feature in most modes.

Choose a Home Screen

If that's not enough, you can also have your phone go to a specific home screen when you set the Focus mode. This includes pages you usually keep hidden. I will be setting up a hidden page of apps I use when I play music (metronome, tuner, sheet music app, and music app for play-along) and tie it to a reasonably liberal Focus mode. Then when I trigger the mode, I get the hidden music tools home screen.

Focus Automation

You can trigger Focus mode based on app usage, time of day, or, location. Alternatively, “Smart Activation” uses all of these variables for the device to turn it on for you. Also, the Shortcuts integration is bi-directional. I could just as easily run a Shortcut that has an action that triggers the Music Focus mode. It's up to you.

The Walls Go Up Everywhere

Another great point about Focus mode is that it works across all your devices. If I set this Podcasting Focus Mode on my Mac, it also kicks in on my iPhone and iPad. For years, my pre-podcast ritual involved finding stray Apple devices to turn off before hitting the red button. This solves that.

Focus Mode on Mac.png

Room for Improvement

I am digging Focus mode but already see a few things I'd like added/changed. First, picking multiple contacts for exceptions is slow and painful. I'd prefer it also give me an option to select contact groups, like "family" or "clients". I would also like the ability to duplicate focus modes as a starting point for new modes. Finally, I’d like to be able to customize the focus notification based on the specific Focus mode.

Focus Mode and Contextual Computing

Regardless, this new feature is aces. Moreover, it dovetails with my never-ending quest to further contextualize all of my time with technology. When I want to write a contract, I need my digital gizmos to set me up for that task and no other. When I want to make music, it should be the same. With a bit of effort, Focus mode will bring this power to all of us and across all of our Apple devices. I'm only two days into figuring out the best workflows for Focus mode, but I can already see how this will be a fixture of my work (and leisure) time going forward.

Read the whole story
3 days ago
Share this story

★ App Store: The Schiller Cut

1 Share

The email evidence1 in the Epic v. Apple trial has offered a cornucopia of insight into Apple’s internal deliberations over the last 14 years. Juicy stuff always comes to light in a big-money trial like this, but the discovery evidence in Epic v. Apple has struck me as particularly juicy.

On the cusp of WWDC 2021, my thoughts remain focused on one in particular — a 28 July 2011 email from Phil Schiller to Steve Jobs and Eddy Cue. (Jobs, at the time, was a month away from stepping down as CEO; I don’t know what to make of the fact that Tim Cook wasn’t included on the email.)

The subject of Schiller’s email ostensibly was this Wall Street Journal story positing that HTML5 was a threat to both Adobe Flash and Apple’s App Store. But, really, the email was about the future of the App Store itself. The entire email (from slide 44 of Epic’s Opening Demonstratives:

From: Philip Schiller
Subject: HTML5 Poses Threat to Flash and the App Store
To: Eddy Cue, Steve Jobs
Date: Thu, 28 Jul 2011 09:27:10-0700

Food for thought:

Do we think our 70/30 split will last forever? While I am a staunch supporter of the 70/30 split and keeping it simple and consistent across our stores, I don’t think that 70/30 will last that unchanged forever. I think someday we will see enough challenge from another platform or web based solutions to want to adjust our model (already Google has rolled out a web in app purchase model at 95/5).

If someday down the road we will be changing 70/30, then I think the question moves from “if” to “when” and “how”. I’m not suggesting we do anything differently today, only that whenever we make a change we do it from a position of strength rather than weakness. That we use any such change to our advantage if possible. And thinking about this long in advance can only help to look at an eventual change as an opportunity (with developers, press, customers, etc).

Just as one thought, once we are making over $1B a year in profit from the App Store, is that enough to then think about a model where we ratchet down from 70/30 to 75/25 or even 80/20 if we can maintain a $1B a year run rate? I know that is controversial, I just tee it up as another way to look at the size of the business, what we want to achieve, and how we stay competitive. Again, just food for thought.


This email is simultaneously not surprising — because he’s Phil Schiller, steward of the Apple brand, and because, of course, at some point surely some discussion was had within Apple about the permanence of 70/30 — but also shocking, because, my god, it spells out a game plan that would have kept Apple out of all this.

Apple’s antitrust concerns around the world are almost entirely centered around the App Store. Some of those concerns are not about the 70-30 / 85-15 splits. Some of the concerns are simply about Apple’s total control over the platform — the lack of options for distributing native software from any sources other than the App Store; the fact that Apple can build features like Find My into the operating system while third parties like Tile cannot; the fact that Apple Music is installed by default and Spotify is not, etc. There are some serious complaints that would not go away if Apple were to unilaterally reduce the App Store commission to, say, 80/20 or even 90/10.

But: an awful lot of the complaints about the App Store — legal objections from competitors, regulatory investigations from governments, and developer community frustrations — would not be on the table today if Apple had followed Schiller’s loose plan outlined in this email. A lot of it is about the money.

Apple makes record-shattering amounts of revenue and profit. But they don’t make every bit of money they can from every single opportunity. To do so would be counterproductive — to squeeze too tightly on every possible source of revenue would dent the company’s brand. To name one seemingly inconsequential example: they do not sell t-shirts or other souvenir-type logo paraphernalia in their retail stores, other than at the visitor center at Apple Park. They choose to leave that money on the table.

You cannot place a dollar value on many essential aspects of any company’s business. What is the Apple logo worth? Think about that. I’m not being coy to state flatly that the Apple logo is invaluable. It is literally priceless. The Apple logo means something very important to the company, but no dollar value can be placed on it. And they could squander some of that value by overusing (or misusing) it.

The App Store, though, feels more and more like the one area of the company where they’ve committed to squeezing as much money as they can out of it. The damage this has caused to Apple’s third-party developer relations is immense.

During Tim Cook’s testimony a few weeks ago, the most strident questions he faced came not from Epic’s attorneys (who, quite frankly, did not seem to have a coherent game plan) but from Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who throughout the trial seemed rightly focused on App Store rules I’ve long objected to — anti-steering provisions. These are the rules that forbid apps from telling users they can sign up for accounts (or buy e-books or other digital content) at the company’s website. The rules against explaining the rules, as I like to put it.

But Gonzales Rogers also pointed to a survey suggesting 39 percent of developers are either “somewhat” or “very” unsatisfied with the App Store:

Rogers also expressed doubt that Apple’s Small Business Program, which cut App Store fees in half for small developers, was made out of concern for small businesses during the Covid pandemic, as Cook testified on Friday. “That seemed to be the result of the pressure accrued because of investigations, of lawsuits,” Rogers said.

Cook said that lawsuits were in the back of his head, but what triggered the program was worry over small businesses during Covid.

Rogers remarked that she had seen a survey that 39% of Apple developers are dissatisfied with the App Store. “It doesn’t seem to me that you feel any pressure or competition to actually change the manner in which you act to address the concerns of developers,” Rogers said.

Cook disagreed and said that Apple “turns the place upside down for developers.”

Most developers I know think that the only thing Apple turns upside down for developers is the proverbial couch, out of which Apple seemingly wants to shake every last nickel of spare change it can.

Apple’s platforms have never been for every developer. (The closest, perhaps, was the Apple II era.) But post-Macintosh, for a certain type of developer, Apple’s platforms were the show. The big leagues. I stole that from a post by my friend and colleague Brent Simmons:

I don’t think Joel is wrong about anything he says. It’s true, for instance, that “if your Windows product appeals to 1 in 100 Windows users, you have to appeal to 25 in 100 Mac users to make the same amount of money.”

On the other hand, it’s still true that if Joel sells 10,000 copies to Windows users of a $100 app, he makes the same amount of money as I do if I sell 10,000 copies to Mac users of a $100 app.

But whatever.

One of the reasons I develop for OS X is that, when it comes to user interface, this is the big leagues, this is the show. That’s probably what Joel would call an “emotional appeal” — and to call it that, that’s fine by me.

Brent wrote that 19 years ago.

I’m talking about the sort of developer who, back then, chose to write Mac-exclusive software in the years when the Mac was languishing, or even during the rebound years of the early OS X era, when the Mac market was growing again but still small compared to Windows or the universal platform of the web.

The sort of developers who today would prefer to create something iOS-specific — building on the frameworks and design idioms exclusive to Apple’s specific platforms, not to “mobile” as a general idea.

The sort of developers who want to do what Apple does with software: make things that are delightful, exquisite, and just right for the platform.

It’s these developers, who were once the most firmly committed to developing software exclusively for Apple’s platforms, whose criticisms of Apple’s App Store policies are the most cogent and strident.

In my imagination, a world where Apple had used Phil Schiller’s memo above as a game plan for the App Store over the last decade is a better place for everyone today: developers for sure, but also users, and, yes, Apple itself. I’ve often said that Apple’s priorities are consistent: Apple’s own needs first, users’ second, developers’ third. Apple, for obvious reasons, does not like to talk about the Apple-first part of those priorities, but Cook made explicit during his testimony during the Epic trial that when user and developer needs conflict, Apple sides with users. (Hence App Tracking Transparency, for example.)

These priorities are as they should be. I’m not complaining about their order. But putting developer needs third doesn’t mean they should be neglected or overlooked. A large base of developers who are experts on developing and designing for Apple’s proprietary platforms is an incredible asset. Making those developers happy — happy enough to keep them wanting to work and focus on Apple’s platforms — is good for Apple itself. “Only on iPhone” is powerful.

I’ve been deeply involved with the Apple developer community since the 1990s. There has always been conflict between developers and Apple. Over the balance of fixing bugs versus adding features to the platforms, over the quality of documentation, over the tools, over everything. But the relationship has clearly turned for the worse during the App Store era, and the reason, I think, is money.

What’s weirdest about Apple’s antitrust and PR problems related to the App Store is that the App Store is a side hustle for Apple. Yes it’s earning Apple $10+ billion a year, and even for Apple that’s significant. But it’s not Apple’s main business by a longshot. To my knowledge no company in history has ever gotten into antitrust hot water over a side business so comparatively small to its overall business. Apple doesn’t need this.

I think Apple’s senior leadership — Cook in particular — truly does believe that Apple has earned every dollar it generates from third-party software in the App Store, and that their policies in place are just and fair. That righteousness came out on the stand in the Epic trial. But even if Apple’s executives are correct — if the current rules and revenue splits could somehow be proven to be dialed in to a hypothetical Platonic ideal of fairness to all parties involved — that doesn’t change the fact that so many developers see it otherwise.

I don’t think the developers are wrong, but even if they are wrong, it’s not good for Apple that they’re so unhappy, and feel so aggrieved. It’s not good for Apple that developers don’t see the App Store as a platform that works in their interests.

Like the Apple logo, “developer goodwill” has no price tag. But Phil Schiller’s decade-ago idea to start dialing down the revenue split — in favor of developers — comes pretty close to assigning it one.

  1. It really has all been email, too. Unless I’m missing something, not one piece of communication entered into evidence — from either Apple or Epic — has been anything other than an email message. Not one message from iMessage or any other messaging service. I find that very surprising. Do Apple executives never use iMessage to discuss work? Nor Epic’s? If anyone with legal expertise can explain why this is, let me know. ↩︎

Read the whole story
4 days ago
Share this story

iOS and iPadOS 15: The MacStories Overview

1 Comment

This morning at Apple’s second fully-remote WWDC keynote address, Craig Federighi introduced iOS and iPadOS 15. This year’s updates include significant improvements to core first-party apps, new controls for maintaining focus, system-wide text and object recognition in images, and much more.

On the iPad-only side of things, Apple has announced a variety of new multitasking interface elements, feature parity with the iPhone’s Home Screen, quick note capturing available at any time in any app, and an overhauled Swift Playgrounds which supports building and shipping complete SwiftUI apps to the App Store.

As usual, developer betas are available today, with final versions scheduled to ship to all users this fall. Let’s take a look at all the details that Apple has in store for us this year.


Last year the pandemic caused an explosion in video chatting, and it was quickly made clear that FaceTime did not support the features that users needed. Apple must have recognized this as well, because iOS and iPadOS 15 are patching many of these holes, and should make FaceTime a viable alternative to the now-ubiquitous Zoom for many more situations.

FaceTime in iOS 15 is finally receiving a proper grid mode in calls with multiple participants. The previous automatically-moving layout, which still exists, felt like it didn’t work well when calls had more than a few participants. Grid mode should improve upon that feeling. FaceTime will also support Apple’s Portrait mode, allowing you to blur your background while keeping yourself in focus.

Most importantly for users familiar with Zoom, FaceTime in iOS and iPadOS 15 will allow users to generate web links for scheduled FaceTime calls. Send out the links and all invitees can use them to join the call together at the specified time. This even works for Android and Windows users, because Apple is making FaceTime available from a web browser for the first time ever. Web-based FaceTime calls remain end-to-end encrypted.

iOS 15 will also bring Apple’s Spatial Audio to FaceTime calls, allowing you to hear voices of participants like they’re coming from a direction relative to their position on your screen. There is a new Voice Isolation feature too, which can block out surrounding background noise and amplify just the sound of your voice. If you’re looking for the opposite effect, switch to Wide Spectrum mode to boost the music or other sounds around you so that your friends can hear what you’re hearing.

Finally, the new FaceTime is introducing a feature called SharePlay. This enables users to expand their video chats with movies, TV shows, music, and screen sharing. Just switch to a participating video app and press play to stream the video to everyone on your call. Playback controls are available to all participants, and play state is synced so that everyone can be confident that they’re watching the same moment together.

Music (via Apple Music only) and screen sharing work the same way, although music adds a shared queue which all participants can add songs to over time. Since FaceTime supports picture-in-picture, participants can keep using their devices while they watch the video stream in a floating window. The picture-in-picture panel can be tapped at any time to reveal playback controls.

You can pass SharePlay streams off to your Apple TV to watch video content there if you’d prefer. While third-party apps will need to add support for SharePlay, Apple has provided a new API to make adoption easy. Big-name video services including Disney+, Hulu, HBO Max, Twitch, TikTok, ESPN+, and more have already committed to supporting the feature.


iOS 15’s changes to the Messages app revolve mostly around sharing content. Groups of photos that you send will now be shown as stacks instead of in a long list, allowing you to more easily swipe through the images without losing track of the conversation around them. Tap on a stack to open a grid view where you can see and select multiple photos at once.

A more in-depth new feature is called Shared with You. This stretches across the system in iOS 15, allowing users to share various types of content with each other and have it show up in its associated app. For instance, if you share a song from Apple Music to one of your friends in the Messages app, when that friend opens Music on their device they’ll see the song that you sent in a new ‘Shared with You’ section. This section will include a button allowing your friend to respond directly to your Messages thread once they’ve listened to the song.

The updated Messages app will let you “pin” content, which elevates it into your own Shared with You sections and also exposes it more easily in Spotlight searched.

Shared with You works in News, Photos, Safari, Podcasts, and the TV app. We’ll need to get our hands on iOS 15 to properly explore the intricacies of this feature, but it seems quite extensive and embedded throughout the operating system.

iOS 15 also includes improvements to Memoji, such as choosing outfits, customizing headwear with multiple colors, and new accessibility customizations like cochlear implants and oxygen tubes.


With iOS 15, Apple is introducing new controls to manage notifications and interruptions, and to generally help you stay more focused on whatever task is at hand throughout each day. The marquee feature here is named ‘Focus,’ and it grants users the ability to create custom modes which correspond to a set of rules. For instance, you might create a Focus named ‘Work’ which triggers Do Not Disturb to be on, but still allows notifications to come in from a selection of work-related apps. Maybe you need Slack notifications, but don’t want to hear anything from Messages until you’re finished working.

Focus can set a status message for you which shows up when friends or family try to send you messages. This lets your contacts know when you’re busy, but also allows them to override your notification settings and send a message that bypasses Do Not Disturb if they have something urgent that needs to get through to you.

Focus modes can also include Home Screen customizations, so when you switch to your Work focus you’ll only see work-related apps and widgets on your Home Screen. You can set up these Focus modes to trigger based on your location too, in which case you’ll get a notification when you arrive somewhere which you can tap to enable the corresponding Focus.

You can easily switch your current Focus via Control Center:


Apple has slightly refreshed the design of Notifications in iOS 15. The app icons which each notification belongs to have been enlarged, and now sit to the left side of the notification content. Shifting the app icon position and removing the app name allowed each notification to get a bit shorter, so you can see more of them on a single page. For Messages notifications, you’ll now see the contact photos for whoever sent the message displayed on the notification. If you don’t want to hear from an app for a while, you’ll be able to mute specific apps so that they can’t send you notifications for the next hour, or for the rest of the day.

The new notification summary feature delays the delivery of less important notifications. Instead of delivering immediately, they get packaged up and sent to you together in a summary block. You can choose what time of day you want to receive your notification summaries, and Apple will sort the included notifications by priority as determined by on-device machine learning. Apple says that “urgent” messages will always be delivered immediately, but it’s not yet clear how this urgency is determined. During the keynote it was mentioned that messages directly from people (presumably texts, emails, maybe Slack or Discord notifications?) will never be included in the notification summary, but we’ll have to dig into the betas to see how granular the controls are around this feature.

Live Text

Live Text is a new system-wide feature in iOS 15 which allows you to access text recognized within images. We’ve seen earlier iterations of this idea in the past with text recognition in Notes, but now Apple is expanding it to a more ambitious level.

The most obviously impressive aspect of Live Text is in the Camera app. You can now point your camera at any text in the real world and your iPhone or iPad running iOS or iPadOS 15 will automatically recognize and parse it. You can then tap on an icon that appears in the bottom corner and the text will jump out of the image and allow you to copy it, select within it, or drag and drop it into another app on your device. This works great paired with cross-app drag-and-drop (which is making its debut on iPhone in iOS 15).

Live Text also works in the Photos app on existing images, so you can pull the text out later if you don’t want to do it while you’re in the middle of taking a picture. Data Detectors are at work here too, so if the text you’re tapping is a phone number, address, or other recognized item, you’ll be able to automatically call it, open it in Maps, etc.

Live Text doesn’t stop at text though. Using machine learning, its sister feature Visual Look Up can recognize objects such as dog breeds, flowers, landmarks, and more. Tapping on recognized objects will bring up more detailed information about them, and allow you to perform web searches to learn even more.

Live Text and Visual Look Up seem to be the (significantly improved) successors to the smart search feature that has been present in the Photos app for a few years. All of the keywords from Photos search can now be used in Spotlight to run system-wide searches for metadata recognized by Live Text or Visual Look Up.

Live Text supports seven different languages at launch, and will work on all Apple devices running the latest operating systems once they launch later this year.


The Photos app has expanded its Memories feature even further. Memories can now be set to your favorite songs from Apple Music, and can be customized with color filters. Setting different filters will result in different song choices and transition effects to nail a wider variety of vibes on Memories videos.

While watching a video generated by Memories, you can tap and hold at any time to freeze a photo so that it doesn’t transition away. The song playing over the video will not pause when you do this, but when you let go the remaining video transitions and timings will be automatically altered to match back up with the song’s beat.

If you don’t want to go with the song that was chosen automatically, you can tap the new Music button to get a pop-up interface into Apple Music, allowing you to choose a song manually. This interface will include smart suggestions for other songs that Apple thinks you’ll like which would also fit the vibe of your video.


Apple is continuing its quest to make the Wallet app replace all need for a physical wallet or keys. In iOS 15, they’re adding virtual keys for physical locks. This will allow users to lock and unlock their homes, apartments, offices, and hotel rooms using their iPhone.

On top of the above, Apple is working with states in the US to include drivers licenses and other official identification types in the Wallet app. They’re also working with TSA to support identification via the Wallet app at airport security checkpoints.

Finally, car keys in the Wallet app are adding support for Ultra Wideband technology, allowing users to unlock and start their vehicles without removing their phones from their pockets.

All of these new features in Wallet will be rolling out with select partners (and only in the United State for some), so it will probably be years before the majority of iPhone users have access to this technology in their homes, offices, cars, and hotel rooms. While that fact puts a bit of a damper on the excitement here, it’s still great to see Apple building out Wallet with such enthusiasm. The ball is rolling now, albeit slowly, so eventually the dream of a wallet-less and key-less life is going to become a reality.


Last year Apple acquired Dark Sky, one of the best weather apps around. It’s still not clear how much of that technology has been integrated into iOS at this time, but iOS 15 is launching a refreshed Weather app with some advanced features similar to what Dark Sky offered.

The new Weather app will support more granular weather animations based on conditions of the location that you’re viewing. Apple is boasting that it has thousands of background animation variations to match every type of whether, and these backgrounds will adjust as weather conditions change.

On top of the new backgrounds, Weather in iOS 15 is adding high-resolution weather maps which you can view to see detailed weather conditions across large areas of land. There will also be new notifications available to warn you of impending snow, rain, or other conditions.


Maps is launching an all-new experience for cities in iOS 15. This will include extraordinarily increased levels of detail, such as individual lanes rendered with dotted or solid lines to indicate passing lanes, crosswalks and bike lanes, trees, elevation levels, and high-quality 3D landmarks. A new nighttime mode will render everything as though the illumination is coming from street lights instead of the sun.

As you approach complicated interchanges, Maps will render them in 3D so that you can see at which points you need to go underneath overpasses or exit onto a particular offshoot of a multi-lane highway. These features are launching on iOS and iPadOS only, but will be coming to CarPlay later this year.

New features for transit riders include pinning favorite routes, and notifications to indicate when it’s time to disembark. In the new advanced city interface, you’ll be able to scan the buildings around yourself using your iPhone or iPad to get an augmented reality view with floating arrows to show what direction you need to walk. These highly advanced city views will only be available in a handful of select cities to start.

The final new addition to Maps is an interactive globe interface, reminiscent of Google Earth. You can pan and zoom in this interface to see detailed maps data for mountain ranges, oceans, rain forests, and more.


Safari’s design has been refreshed to move the navigation bar to the bottom so that it’s more easily accessible using only your thumb. This new bar floats above your content, and disappears when you scroll. You can swipe side-to-side on the bar to switch between Safari tabs, or swipe up on it to access to the redesigned tab view.

The new Tab Groups feature lets you sort tabs into saved groups, then access them on any of your devices. Safari on iOS and iPadOS 15 have a redesigned start page which features favorites, reading list items, Shared with You links, and Tab Groups.

Finally, the new Safari adds support for web extensions for the first time on iOS and iPadOS. These extensions use the same code as those on macOS, so transitioning Mac extensions to iOS and iPadOS should be fairly straightforward for most developers.

iPadOS 15

Home Screen

iPadOS 15 brings the same features to the Home Screen that we saw on the iPhone last year: widgets and the App Library. There’s nothing too special here, but a few minor changes can be seen. On iPadOS, widgets include a new size which is even bigger than the max size available on iPhone. The App Library is accessible from an icon in the iPadOS Dock rather than by swiping all the way past the leftmost Home Screen page.


Multitasking is getting another refresh in iOS 15, starting with the brand new multitasking icon that sits in the top-center of each app in the status bar. Tap this icon to open the new multitasking menu, which shows a few icons that you can tap to switch the app between full screen, Slide Over, and Split View modes.

When you select Split View from the multitasking menu, and you aren’t already in Split View, your app will slide completely off the edge of the screen and reveal your Home Screen. This allows you to select a second app which you want to pair with the current one in order to create the dual Split View. Once you’ve tapped another app, the first one slides back in so that you can see them both together.

In some cases you might want to bring full-screen focus onto a particular element even when working in Split View. iPadOS 15 supports this use case. For instance, if you’re working in Split View between Mail and another app, but want to take some time to read through an email without distraction, you can tap and hold on that email. This will trigger the new ‘center window’ view, in which the email pops out of Mail and is displayed as a modal window on top of both of your Split View apps. The background apps will get a dark overlay so that you can focus in on the modal. When you’re done, dismiss the modal and you’ll be back in your previous Split View.

To a certain editor-in-chief’s surprise and delight, Apple added a shelf to iPadOS 15. This new interface is used to display all open windows for a particular app so that you can quickly switch between them. The shelf shows up automatically at the bottom when you switch to an app that has multiple windows active. If the app only has one window, the shelf won’t exist until you create a second one. When viewing the shelf you can tap to switch between windows, swipe up on windows to close them, or use the ‘New Window’ button to create a new one.

Another nice new addition to multitasking in iPadOS 15 is the ability to create new Split View app groups directly within the App Switcher. Just open the App Switcher and drag one app on top of another one to create a new Split View, then tap to open it.

When you have a Split View active, you’ll see the multitasking menu icons in the top center of both app windows. You can tap either of these icons to access the multitasking menu for that window, or swipe down from one of the icons to remove its app from the Split View.

Keyboard shortcuts are available for all of the new multitasking commands, and these join a host of other new keyboard shortcuts to access system-level tasks across iPadOS 15.


The Notes app in iOS and iPadOS 15 supports mentioning other people in shared notes, and tagging notes via the common hashtag method (type a hashtag anywhere in the note to add that tag). A new activity view tracks changes to a note over time.

On iPadOS 15, there’s an all-new system-wide feature called Quick Note, which brings up a miniature Notes interface and allows you to rapidly jot down a note and save it without leaving your current context. If you create a Quick Note from certain apps, such as Safari or Mail, you can easily capture a back link to the particular mail message or webpage to keep reference of it in the note.

You can also highlight and capture text from a webpage into a Quick Note. Next time you visit the webpage, a Quick Note thumbnail will show up so you know that you have notes here. You can then open the note and tap on any text that you saved and Safari will automatically navigate the webpage to that text. This is a great way to pick up where you left off when taking notes on long articles.

Quick Notes can be created on iPadOS 15 via Control Center, via a new Globe Key-Q keyboard shortcut, or by dragging diagonally out from the bottom-right corner of the screen using your Apple Pencil. Each Quick Note is saved into a special folder in the Notes app, from which you can find them on your iPhone and Mac as well.

Translate on iPad

The Translate app has come to iPad in iPadOS 15, and features improvements including Auto Translate and handwriting practice for various languages. Auto Translate recognizes languages automatically and translates text on the fly, allowing you to have a smooth conversation with someone using two languages, with the iPad translating each of your speech into text for the other to read.

Translation is also now a system-wide feature, allowing you to select and translate text in any app. You can use the Translate app in Split View to get easy translations right next to text documents. System-wide translation and Auto Translate in the Translate app are both available on iOS 15 as well, and you can download languages to enable on-device translations.

Swift Playgrounds

Swift Playgrounds has received an enormous upgrade in iPadOS 15. Apple still isn’t changing the name to Xcode, but Playgrounds can now be used to create fully functioning apps for iOS and iPadOS using SwiftUI.

The new Swift Playgrounds can run live previews of apps as you build them, and includes helpful tools to teach you how to write apps in SwiftUI as you go. Once you’re finished with your new app, you can submit it to the App Store directly from Swift Playgrounds.

The update also includes improved code completion for Swift, helping developers move even faster.

Building and shipping apps is a groundbreaking addition to iPadOS, although we’ll have to wait to hear from developers to see exactly how restricting the new environment feels for professional development. Regardless, it’s exciting to see the capability of developing apps come to the iPad. Even if things end up being too restricted this year, now that the feature exists Apple is sure to make it more powerful in the years to come.


  • Siri requests can now occur on-device for select queries, significantly increasing the speed and privacy of Siri responses, and allowing requests to be processed with no Internet connection.
  • You can now ask Siri to share the current item on your screen, which works automatically for photos, webpages, news, and more. If the item isn’t shareable, Siri will capture a screenshot and share that instead.
  • Spotlight Search has been updated with expanded information cards for contacts, as well as for actors, TV shows, Movies, and more.
  • The iPhone setup process has been improved, including allowing existing users to back up to iCloud for free regardless of their subscription level so that they can seamlessly restore their new phone via iCloud. These temporary iCloud backups will be stored for three weeks.
  • The text magnification loupe is back for improved text selection.
  • You can now enable separation notifications which are sent when you leave behind items that are tracked with Find My.
  • Apple’s built-in password manager now supports two-factor authentication codes.
  • Custom smart lists in Reminders.
  • A new location sharing permission allows developers to request your location only a single time, rather than requesting it permanently even if they only need it for a one-off occasion.
  • Copying files on iPadOS now shows a progress bar.
  • EXIF data can be viewed and edited from the Photos app in iOS and iPadOS 15.
  • Shortcuts updated with collapsible blocks and new ‘Stop and Output’ option.
  • When your iPhone is powered off, it can now still be located via the Find My network. This intriguing feature definitely requires some further investigation, so we’ll have more information on how it works as the summer progresses.
  • An improved date and time picker brings back the old spinning-wheel interface when you tap into the time, but preserves the advancements from last year (including the ability to type in dates and times if you prefer that).
  • Android users moving to iOS can now access a “Move to iOS” feature which will help them transfer their photo albums, files, folders, and accessibility settings to their new iPhone.
  • A new option in Settings allows users to choose to stay on a previous version of iOS or iPadOS and just receive security updates, opting them out of the nagging notifications to upgrade to the next OS if they aren’t ready to do so.
  • New first-party widgets for Find My, Game Center, App Store Today, Sleep, Mail, and People.
  • Follow family and friends’ locations more granularly with continuous streaming updates in the Find My app.
  • New accessibility features include expanded VoiceOver details, per-app display and text size settings, and background sounds to help minimize distractions.
  • The Made for iPhone program now supports bidirectional hearing aids.
  • Headphone Accommodations can now import and parse audiograms to show and adjust for the results of hearing tests.
  • Developers can now offer subscription management and refunds within their own apps via new APIs, rather than users having to go through the Settings app or contact Apple.


iOS and iPadOS 15 are both significant updates to two of Apple’s flagship operating systems. The new multitasking changes in iPadOS look like promising improvements to a system that was fairly confusing to handle in its previous iteration. FaceTime’s play to gain ground back against Zoom seems helpful to Apple users, although it remains to be seen how effective the browser-based versions will feel. Focus, Live Text, and Quick Note are all very clear wins, and I’m excited to get my hands on them as the beta season progresses.

These updates are full of such a variety of new features that it’s going to take some time to fully digest them all. As usual, the MacStories team will be digging into all of them and more over the summer, so stay tuned for our continued coverage.

iOS and iPadOS 15 are both available as developer betas today, and will be shipping to all users this fall.

You can follow all of our WWDC coverage through our WWDC 2021 hub, or subscribe to the dedicated WWDC 2021 RSS feed.

Support MacStories Directly

Club MacStories offers exclusive access to extra MacStories content, delivered every week; it’s also a way to support us directly.

Club MacStories will help you discover the best apps for your devices and get the most out of your iPhone, iPad, and Mac. Plus, it’s made in Italy.

Join Now
Read the whole story
5 days ago
There are some pretty good updates to iOS and iPadOS which I am looking forward to!
Share this story

Apple’s App Store facilitated $643 billion in commerce, up 24% from last year

1 Share

In its antitrust trial with Epic Games, which has just adjourned, Apple argued it doesn’t evaluate its App Store profit and loss as a standalone business. But today, the company put out new figures that indicate it does have a good understanding of the money that flows through its app marketplace, at the very least. The company has now released an updated version of a study performed by the economists at the Analysis Group, which claims the App Store ecosystem facilitated $643 billion in billings and sales in 2020, up 24% from the $519 billion seen the year prior. The new report focuses on the pandemic impacts to apps and the small business developers the App Store serves, among other things.

It also noted that about 90% of the billings and sales facilitated by the App Store actually took place outside its walls, meaning Apple took no commission on those purchases. This is up from the 85% figure reported last year, and is a figure Apple has been using in antitrust battles to paint a picture of an App Store that facilitates a lot commerce where it doesn’t take a commission.

The study then broke down how the different categories of App Store billings and sales were distributed.

Apple takes a commission on the sales of digital goods and services, which were $86 billion in 2020, or 13% of the total. But another $511 billion came from the sale of physical goods and services through apps — think online shopping, food delivery, ride hailing, etc. — or 80% of the total. These aren’t commissioned. And $46 billion came from in-app advertising, or 7% of the total.

The larger point being made with some of these figures is that, while the dollar amount flowing through apps being commissioned is large, it’s much smaller than most of the business being conducted on the App Store.

The report also noted how much of that business originates from China, which accounted for 47% of total global billings and sales ($300 billion) versus the U.S.’s 27% ($175+ billion).

Apple app store iOS

Image Credits: TechCrunch

The study additionally dove into how some App Store categories had been heavily impacted by the pandemic — particularly those apps that helped businesses and schools move online, those that offered ways to shop from your phone, or helped consumers stay entertained and healthy, among other things.

This led to a more than 40% increase in billings and sales from apps offering digital goods and services, while sales in the travel and ride-hailing sectors decreased by 30%. While the latter may gradually return to pre-pandemic levels, some of the acceleration driven by the pandemic in other categories — like online shopping and grocery delivery — could be here to stay.

To break it down further, general retail grew to $383 billion in 2020, up from $268 billion last year. Food delivery and pickup grew from $31 billion in 2019 to $36 billion in 2021. Grocery shopping jumped from $14 billion to $22 billion. But travel fell from $57 billion in 2019 to $38 billion in 2020, and ride hailing dropped from $40 billion to $26 billion. (None of these categories are commissioned.)

The study then continued with a deep dive into how the App Store aided small businesses.

Highlighting how smaller businesses benefit from a tech giant’s ecosystem is a tactic others have taken to, as well, in order to shore up support for their own operations, which have similarly been accused of being monopolies in recent months.

Amazon, for example, raves about the small businesses benefitting from its marketplace and its sales event Prime Day, even as it stands accused of leveraging nonpublic data to compete with those same small business sellers. Facebook, meanwhile, pushed the small business impact angle when Apple’s new privacy protections in iOS 14 allowed customers to opt out of being tracked — and therefore out of Facebook’s personalized ads empire.

In Apple’s case, it’s pointing to the fact that the number of small developers worldwide has grown by 40% since 2015. This group now makes up more than 90% of App Store developers. The study defines this group of “small” developers as those with fewer than 1 million downloads and less than $1 million in earnings across all their apps. It also excludes any developers that never saw more than 1,000 downloads in a year between 2015 and 2020, to ensure the data focuses on businesses, not hobbyists. (This is a slightly different definition than Apple uses for its Small Business Program, we should note.)

Among this group, more than 1 in 5 saw at least an increase in downloads of at least 25% annually since their first full year on the App Store. And 1 in 4 who sold digital goods and services saw an earnings increase of at least 25% annually.

The study also connected being on the App Store with growing a business’s revenue, noting that only 23% of large developers (those with more than $1 million in earnings in 2020) had already earned more than $1 million back in 2015. Indeed, 42% were active on the App Store in 2015 but hadn’t crossed the $1 million threshold, and another 35% were not even on the App Store — an indication their success has been far more recent.

The research additionally identified more than 75 businesses in the U.S. and Europe, where iOS was essential to their business, that went public or were acquired since 2011. Their valuation totaled nearly $500 billion.

Finally, the study examined how apps transact outside their home market, as around 40% of all downloads of apps from small developers came from outside their home countries and nearly 80% were operating in multiple storefronts.

Image Credits: Apple WWDC 2021 imagery

While the antitrust scrutiny may have pushed Apple into commissioning this type of App Store research last year, it’s interesting to see the company is now updating the data on an annual basis to give the industry a deeper view into the App Store compared with the general developer revenue figure it used to trot out at various events and occasions.

Like last year’s study, the updated research has been released in the days leading up to Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference. It’s a time of the year when Apple aims to renew its bond with the developer community as it rolls out new software development kits (SDKs), application programming interfaces (API)s, software and other tools — enhancements it wants to remind developers are made possible, in part, because of its App Store fees.

Today, Apple notes it has more than 250,000 APIs included in 40 SDKs. At WWDC 2021, it will host hundreds of virtual sessions, 1-on-1 developer labs and highlight App Store favorites.

“Developers on the App Store prove every day that there is no more innovative, resilient or dynamic marketplace on earth than the app economy,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook, in a statement about the research. “The apps we’ve relied on through the pandemic have been life-changing in so many ways — from groceries delivered to our homes, to teaching tools for parents and educators, to an imaginative and ever-expanding universe of games and entertainment. The result isn’t just incredible apps for users: it’s jobs, it’s opportunity, and it’s untold innovation that will power global economies for many years to come,” he added.

Read the whole story
10 days ago
Share this story
Next Page of Stories