Wednesday Morning News
Reviews of the iPhone XS are out, with TechCrunch and The Verge the first cabs off the rank. Given that we’re now ten years into iPhones, and the iPhone XS and XS Max have arguably the fewest changes of any iPhone thus far (even if they do have the biggest screens of any iPhone thus far), you can almost imagine how the reviews will go. TechCruch’s Matthew Panzarino puts a little extra effort into reviewing about all the changes in the iPhone XS and XS Max camera, where it turns out that whatever segmentation mapping and neural networking Apple are doing makes a difference in terms of the final shot, while The Verge’s Nilay Patel is a slightly more evenly-spread review that also compares the XS and XS Max to other devices, particularly when it comes to the camera. Both come to the same conclusion: there’s not much here worth upgrading for if you’re already an iPhone X owner, but if you do, know that you’re getting the very best iPhone available. And for everyone else, I think Apple’s narrative is clear: this is the future, and you’ll want to be a part of it.
It’s this same focus on the photography aspects of the iPhone XS and XS Max that drives John Gruber’s review of the devices. Apple spent a lot of time talking about all the minute ways it’s improved photography in the keynote because of all of the ways it has improved photography, even compared to the iPhone X. On top of the new wide-angle lens and larger sensor that make up the improved hardware side of the equation, there’s also computational photography techniques being applied which, in most scenarios, will result in better photos.
Even if you don’t have an iPhone Tennis or Tennis Max pre-ordered and aren’t looking to upgrade anytime soon, yesterday’s release of iOS 12 has plenty of new and shiny for you to play with. Significant improvements to core iOS features such as notifications, Siri, and developer APIs are accompanied by overall refinements to smaller features, like Do Not Disturb, and existing apps like Books, Stocks, and News, topped off with performance improvements that mean iOS 12 runs just fine on older hardware. MacStories has the 17-page review if you’re after more details, otherwise there’s also the one from Ars Technica that calls out all the areas for improvement that were left untouched by Apple. That said, there’s nothing that you can say is bad or inherently worse than how it was in iOS 11, which means there’s no good reason not to update.
An Apple employee working on Safari, authentication, and security tweeted a bunch of cool stuff about iCloud Keychain, Safari, and WebKit features in iOS 12 you might not have known about. Ricky Mondello also points out an updated version of Safari is out for macOS, which has a few new tricks when it comes to security affordances.
Meanwhile, iOS 12 brings support for using third-party mapping apps with CarPlay, and with today’s Google Maps update, you can now use Google Maps with CarPlay. While you can’t use Siri to ask where to go, voice navigation is available with Google Maps’ CarPlay implementation at the touch of a button, and it even supports all the regular Google Maps features that make sense when you’re driving around, in a car.
And if you’re not completely exhausted by all the reviews thus far, there’s also a (thankfully) shorter review of tvOS 12. Although there aren’t as many changes in this release compared to iOS, MacStories writes that what has changed will improve the day-to-day experience of using the Apple TV. There are new aerial screensavers, if that’s all you’re interested in, but support for Dolby Atmos allows the Apple TV to pull its weight in the home entertainment stakes (The Verge explains why Dolby Atmos support is important, in that respect).
Several, maybe even dozens of you, might have also had your HomePods auto-update yesterday, if only so you could set multiple timers with the same sort of impunity that other smart home speaker owners already enjoyed. You’ll also be able to search songs using lyrics, make and receive calls directly on the HomePod, and ping your iOS or macOS devices like you can from your Apple Watch.
Interestingly, there are new watch faces included with watchOS 5 that weren’t present in any of the betas. They look like the same ones Apple showed off on-stage while previewing the Apple Watch Series 4, so it’s nice to know that even without new hardware, you’ll still get some neat new watch faces to play with.
It seems a great many apps are adding support for Siri Shortcuts, and apps from Australian developers are no exception. Everyone’s favourite smiling bus, NextThere, lets you pick a station/stop and destination, record a personalised phrase, and get results by simply asking Siri when the next train or bus is, opening up the real and very cool possibility of getting public transport info without even looking at your watch or iPhone, if you’re using AirPods or other headphones. And if you want to be able to record all of your habits by telling Siri, Streaks now lets you do exactly that.
Apple’s own iWork suite on iOS now has support for Siri Shortcuts, although it’s not clear what, exactly, you can accomplish using them as part of a multi-step workflow. Things and Overcast round out the other major third-party apps supporting Siri Shortcuts, with other changes detailed in their respective posts.