six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

This week's sponsor

In memory of Tom Negrino (1956-2017), we encourage you to make a donation to App Camp for Girls.

Jason Snell for Macworld

The $329 iPad could be just the thing for the education market ↦

This winter has been packed with speculation about the future directions of the iPad product line, but nobody guessed that 2017’s first iPad announcement would be what we saw on Tuesday: An unexpected return of the original iPad line and the discontinuation of the iPad Air. The move was hardly exciting in terms of technology, but it could prove to be a smart and strategic one for the iPad as a whole.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


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Instagram rolls out two-factor authentication for all

Speaking of two-factor authentication, you should really enable it on every service that offers it. And good news! Instagram has rolled out two-factor authentication to all users. You’ll need to add a phone number to your account if you haven’t already done so, and then, whenever you log in, you’ll receive a text to that number with a code, which you’ll have to enter. To set up the option in the Instagram app, tap the icon for your profile in the toolbar, then the gear icon in the top right. You’ll see an entry for Two-Factor Authentication right below Posts You’ve Liked; select that and follow the onscreen directions.


Podcast

The Rebound 129: Look at This GUI

The Rebound

In this week’s episode, the calm before the storm of minor Apple announcements, we talk Apple’s augmented reality plans, the possible futures of the Mac Pro and Mac mini (or lack thereof), Samsung’s new virtual assistant, Apple’s diversity problems, and Dan and Lex’s favorite new game. Also, planning begins on our musical episode.


Linked by Dan Moren

Apple says iCloud and Apple IDs not compromised, despite ransom attempt

There was a story going around the other day that a group of hackers calling itself “Turkish Crime Family” were holding some 500 million Apple email and iCloud accounts ransom unless Apple paid it a bunch of money.

Which sure sounds scary, but in a statement provided to Fortune, Apple says this is untrue:

“There have not been any breaches in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud and Apple ID,” the spokesperson said. “The alleged list of email addresses and passwords appears to have been obtained from previously compromised third-party services.”

Even if it’s not true, it’s still a reminder to make sure your Apple ID and iCloud accounts are as secure as possible, especially by making sure that you’ve enabled two-factor authentication.1


  1. And, because it’s confusing, let’s remind you that Apple’s newer two-factor authentication is not the same as its older two-step verification. Check the link for more.  ↩


Linked by Jason Snell

Apple acquires Workflow

Matthew Panzarino at TechCrunch:

Apple has finalized a deal to acquire Workflow today — a tool that lets you hook together apps and functions within apps in strings of commands to automate tasks. We’ve been tracking this one for a while but were able to confirm just now that the ink on the deal is drying as we speak.

What. WHAT. WHAT?!

Okay, so Workflow is the definitive tool for automation and power-user stuff on iOS. It is spectacularly good. Look at the MacStories Workflow archive for a million examples of how.

So what does this mean for Apple? I’m going to be positive and say that this is Apple acknowledging that this sort of functionality should be core to iOS, and that Workflow (or a successor) could be vastly more powerful if it’s given more power and control than any third-party app ever could. You could, in fact, argue that Workflow is the iOS app that Apple should’ve built itself, but didn’t.

(The pessimist view would be that Apple could acquire the talent of Workflow, let the app wither and disappear, and never really address the need for better automation on iOS.)

I am going to choose to be the optimist here and take this as a sign that Apple’s getting serious about iOS power features.

Federico Viticci shares his thoughts about the acquisition here.


Linked by Dan Moren

iTunes 12.6 enables rent once, watch anywhere

Amongst all its other announcements yesterday, Apple snuck in iTunes 12.6, which most notably enables the ability to rent a movie from the iTunes Store and watch it on any device.1 It does, however, require iOS 10.3 or tvOS 10.2, so those are probably coming sooner rather than later. Kirk McElhearn also notes that iTunes 12.6 restores the ability to open playlists in separate windows from earlier versions. Anybody catch any other changes?


  1. I do rent movies on my Apple TV fairly often, but I don’t really jump between devices, which explains why I was rather surprised to find that this wasn’t already a thing. ↩


By Dan Moren

Go Play: Typeshift

I love word games. Delight in them. I may even go so far as to say I adore them. But I confess that I’ve never been the best at anagrams—it just seems to require a totally different part of my brain from, say, crossword puzzles. But TypeShift from Zach Gage has got me hooked nonetheless, thanks to a few very clever conceits. Gage is an experienced game developer, whose previous titles include popular games like SpellTower, Ridiculous Fishing, and Really Bad Chess.

typeshift

TypeShift is, at heart, an anagram game. Each puzzle gives you columns of letters that you can slide up and down—think of it like one of those horizontal combination locks, but with letters instead of numbers. Your goal is to form words from those letters. The good news is that it doesn’t really require rearranging letters, as in a true anagram.

Within each puzzle, your aim is to use all the letters in the puzzle in at least one word. There are generally a handful of core words that you can use to complete this puzzle, as well as a bunch of extra words that you can discover.1 (Even better, when you’ve solved the puzzle, you can tap on any word to get a definition of the word, right from Merriam-Webster, whose dictionary Typeshift licenses. You can then favorite those words just in case you want to look them up later.)

I really appreciate TypeShift’s Daily Puzzle, which—as with the New York Times crossword puzzle—gets harder as the week goes on, but my heart truly belongs to the game’s Clue Puzzles, which combine TypeShift’s normal play with crossword puzzle mechanics. You’re given a list of clues and must find words among the letters that correspond to those clues. It’s definitely a more Dan-friendly sort of puzzle.

TypeShift’s simple, bold graphics focus on easy readability—you can pick from a few different color schemes—and it makes delightful use of haptics on the iPhone 7 series, giving you little rewarding taps when you find a word, or “clicking” as you spin through the letter options. One thing I found myself wishing as I played was that I could go back and finish Daily Puzzles I’d missed, but if that’s possible, I haven’t found out how yet.

The game is itself free and includes a few packs of puzzles as well as the daily puzzle, but you can buy additional puzzle packs for a dollar or two. If you enjoy words and puzzles, it’s well worth your time.


  1. I seem to usually end up finding a ton of extra words rather than the core words, so I’m definitely no speed demon.  ↩

[Dan Moren is a tech writer, novelist, podcaster, and the Official Dan of Six Colors. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


Linked by Dan Moren

Apple sneaks in new Watch bands

Amongst the hubbub of today’s announcements, one thing went unmentioned: new Apple Watch bands! (Well, new colors, anyway.) You can now grab a $49 Sport Band in Camellia, Pebble, or Azure; $49 Woven Nylon bands in Orange (and blue), Berry, Red (and yellow/gray), and, uh “Pollen”1 (blue/yellow/green). Also, the Nike+ Sport bands in Anthracite/Black, Pure Platinum/White, and Black/Volt, are now available as $49 options—previously, you could only get them by buying the Nike+ edition of the Watch.


  1. Seriously, guys? I’m allergic to pollen. Come on.  ↩


By Dan Moren

Apple introduces Clips app to create and share videos

iphone-clips

Well, if your wildcard bet for today’s Apple announcements was an app for making short videos on your iOS device, I applaud your predilection for preternatural prediction. The company announced Clips, an app that lets you combine video, photos, and music into videos to share through Messages or on social media like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or YouTube.

As you might expect from an app that seems pretty clearly aimed at something like Snapchat or Instagram Stories, the app includes a number of filters, like comic book styles, as well as speech bubbles, shapes, and full-screen animated posters. There’s also a new Live Titles feature, which lets users make animated captions and titles from voice alone; it sounds as though it leverages Apple’s Dictation skills to create captions as people speak, but it can also synchronize them with your video. It supports different text styling, editing, and even inline emoji, in 36 different languages.

Clips isn’t available yet, but will be on the App Store in April for free, working with the iPhone 5s and later, the new 9.7-inch iPad, all iPad Airs and Pros, the iPad mini 2 and later, and the sixth-generation iPod touch. You’ll need iOS 10.3 or later. (Which, hey, you’ll notice isn’t out yet, so at least we’ve got an idea when that appears.)

[Dan Moren is a tech writer, novelist, podcaster, and the Official Dan of Six Colors. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


Linked by Dan Moren

Apple makes Swift Playgrounds available in Chinese, four other languages

Apple’s development learning tool, Swift Playgrounds, is expanding its global reach. Unsurprisingly, that starts with making the tool available in Simplified Chinese, so as to appeal in the Greater China market that the company does so much business in. The company’s also adding Japanese, French, German, and Latin American Spanish. Programming lessons are localized across all five additional languages, and the company says they are optimized to look better and run faster too.

Apple also makes particular note that Swift Playgrounds is “a perfect companion” for the new 9.7-inch iPad, which starts at a more affordable price, showing the company’s clear positioning of the new tablet as an educational tool.


By Dan Moren

New 9.7-inch iPad replaces Air 2; iPad mini 4 increases capacities

iPad

In addition to a red iPhone, Apple also introduced a new version of the 9.7-inch iPad—no, not the iPad Pro. Called simply “iPad”, this low-cost model appears to replace the iPad Air 2, and starts at a cheaper $329 price point for 32GB and $429 for 128GB. (As usual, cellular-enabled models are $130 extra.) It comes in silver, gold, and space gray versions and will be available this Friday, March 24.

Though this new model is the same height and width as the iPad Air 2, it’s slightly thicker—0.29 inches compared to 0.24 for the iPad Air 2—and slightly heavier, weighing in at 1.03 lbs, compared to the iPad Air 2’s 0.96. It has a Retina display, which Apple describes as “brighter” (presumably compared to the Air 2) and the same A9 chip found in the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus; that’s an improvement over the A8X in the Air 2, if not quite as powerful as the A9X in the Pro line. It features no Smart Connector, so no compatibility with the Smart Keyboard, and it won’t work with the Apple Pencil either.

There’s an 8-megapixel camera, that is probably the same unit found in the 12.9 inch iPad Pro and the iPad mini 4, with no support for Live Photos and no True Tone flash, and it can record video at 1080p. There’s also a standard 1.2-megapixel FaceTime HD camera, two speakers, Touch ID (no indication if it’s the first or second generation of that sensor), and support for Apple Pay.

The new iPad is clearly intended as a budget model, in the same way that Apple long kept around the iPad 2. While it has most of the “standard” features of the iPad, the line gets drawn between the Pro models, which have the Smart Connector, Apple Pencil support, even better displays, and faster processors.

As with the iPhone SE, Apple also snuck in a capacity bump for the iPad mini 4, which is now available in only a 128GB configuration for $399 (or with cellular for $539). That replaces the previous $399 model, which offered just 32GB of storage.

New Smart Covers round out the announcement, in charcoal gray, white, midnight blue, pink, and Product (RED) colors.

[Dan Moren is a tech writer, novelist, podcaster, and the Official Dan of Six Colors. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


By Dan Moren

Apple introduces Product(RED) versions of iPhone 7, 7 Plus, doubles iPhone SE capacity

Product(RED) iPhone

If you’ve been craving an iPhone in a color beyond silver, two versions of gold, or two versions of black, it is your lucky day. After ten years of teaming up with Product(RED) to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in Africa and releasing red versions of iPods, Apple’s releasing both the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus in a red aluminum finish. The red version of the iPhone 7 is available in two capacities: 128GB for $749 or $849 for 256GB, while the iPhone 7 Plus starts at $869 for 128GB and $969 for 256GB. (In other words, basically the same as the Jet Black iPhone). They’re also available for purchase via the iPhone Upgrade Program. The new iPhones go on sale this Friday, March 24, at 8:01 a.m. Pacific and will be available worldwide.

Buried deep down in its iPhone press release, Apple also notes that it’s bumping the storage on the iPhone SE, which will now be available in 32GB and 128GB models, but at the same prices of $399 and $499 respectively. (This replaces the previous configurations of 16GB and 64GB.) Those two will be available for order on March 24.

Finally, Apple also briefly mentioned new silicon iPhone 7/7 Plus cases in azure, camellia, and pebble, as well as new leather cases in an audacious taupe, sapphire, and berry.

[Dan Moren is a tech writer, novelist, podcaster, and the Official Dan of Six Colors. You can email him at dan@sixcolors.com or find him on Twitter at @dmoren.]


By Jason Snell

Is Apple releasing new products Tuesday?

So, new Apple products tomorrow, released via press release rather than media event?

MacRumors reported last week that new products could arrive this week. 9to5 Mac points out that the Apple Store will be down early tomorrow morning.

John Gruber speculates that a 10.5-inch iPad isn’t coming soon, but thinks small updates to the existing iPad line (which hasn’t been updated in a year) could be coming. Federico Viticci says that makes sense.

It would be interesting for Apple to release updated iPads without an event, but if this is a specs update and there’s no entirely new product like that rumored 10.5-inch iPad, update via press release seems perfectly reasonable.

Will there be an iMac update, too? It’s past due, so it’s possible—especially if it’s also just a minor spec increase with nothing new beyond faster processors. Apple’s media events are a good way for the company to tell its story when it’s got something big to unveil, but people will pay attention to any new product Apple introduces, whether or not there’s an auditorium and a live video stream involved.

Then again, maybe someone just needs to change the oil in the WebObjects server that runs the Apple Online Store, and that’s why it’s going to be offline tomorrow for a few hours. We’ll find out soon.


Linked by Jason Snell

Apple is serious about Augmented Reality

Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:

Tim Cook has talked up a lot of technologies since becoming Apple Inc.’s chief executive in 2011. Driverless cars. Artificial intelligence. Streaming television. But no technology has fired up Cook quite like augmented reality, which overlays images, video and games on the real world. Cook has likened AR’s game-changing potential to that of the smartphone. At some point, he said last year, we will all “have AR experiences every day, almost like eating three meals a day. It will become that much a part of you.”

According to Gurman, Apple is exploring the addition of AR features to the iPhone—this seems like a natural to me, and something that could be done very soon—as well as building a full-on set of AR glasses. (It seems like that product is probably a few years away.)

Apple doesn’t have to be early to the AR hardware game to have a winning strategy. It just needs to be the first company to really do it right and make a product people want to buy and wear on their faces every day.


Linked by Jason Snell

What happens when the Queen dies?

I read this story by Sam Knight with fascination. Queen Elizabeth is 90, and her death will be an event the likes of which most Britons have never seen. It will mark the end of an era (and of an empire), cause the accession of a new monarch, and kick off weeks of ceremony and media coverage that’s already been planned out in detail.

Unlike the US presidency, say, monarchies allow huge passages of time - a century, in some cases - to become entwined with an individual. The second Elizabethan age is likely to be remembered as a reign of uninterrupted national decline, and even, if she lives long enough and Scotland departs the union, as one of disintegration. Life and politics at the end of her rule will be unrecognisable from their grandeur and innocence at its beginning. “We don’t blame her for it,” Philip Ziegler, the historian and royal biographer, told me. “We have declined with her, so to speak.”

An average British woman of the Queen’s age has an average life expectancy of a little more than four years. But the Queen is above average—and I’ll remind you that her mother lived to be 101. When the time comes, though, the British government and press will follow a script that’s been created and rehearsed for several decades.


Linked by Jason Snell

The Monopoly boot gets the boot

A Hasbro contest has concluded with three classic Monopoly tokens being replaced by new tokens:

The boot has been booted, the wheelbarrow has been wheeled out, and the thimble got the thumbs down in the latest version of the board game Monopoly. In their place will be a Tyrannosaurus rex, a penguin and a rubber ducky.

Surviving tokens include the dog, battleship, car, top hat, and cat. (Yes, there’s a cat token. They added that one a few yearsa go, when they axed the iron.) I always prefer to play with the car, myself, though I admit that the T-Rex seems like a real crowd pleaser.

(Related: A great podcast episode about how everyone plays Monopoly wrong.)


Linked by Jason Snell

Netflix tests a “skip intro” button

Casey Newton of The Verge reports that Netflix is testing a new button that lets users skip the opening credits of shows:

So far, the button has only been spotted on the web. Rolling it out more broadly would require app updates on the many platforms where Netflix is available. “We perform hundreds of tests every year to help make the Netflix member experience better,” a spokeswoman told The Verge.

I like opening credit montages, but I don’t need to watch them every single time through a show.

[via John Siracusa.]


Dan Moren for Macworld

The iPad Pro needs a refresh: Here’s what to expect ↦

I think we can all agree that it’s about time for an iPad update. The most recently updated model, the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, is approaching the year-old mark. And far be it for me to argue that every Apple product needs to be updated every year, but the iPad, well, the iPad has struggled a bit over the last few years, and it could use a jumpstart.

So, assuming that new iPads are coming down the pipeline—and the consensus seems to be that they’ll arrive sooner rather than later—what can we expect?

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Jason Snell for Macworld

How the AirPods show Apple’s frustrating and delightful quest for simplicity ↦

Making complex things simple: Perhaps more than any other trait, this is Apple’s superpower. When it’s at the height of its powers, Apple takes complex technologies and boils them down to simple products that delight their buyers.

Complexity is always in our faces, shouting, demanding more. Cutting-edge technology is fundamentally complex. Integrating a suite of technologies together into a single product adds further complexity.

We’re at fault, too, as users, and people like me who write about technology for a living are even worse. We frequently mark down products that are too simple and pine for added settings, more options, and extra complexity, without recognizing how much complexity can weigh down a product, robbing it of its essence.

Apple can get this wrong. Worse, it can making this infuriatingly complex while in pursuit of simplicity, which in some ways explains the debacle that is iOS device syncing in iTunes. But when it gets it right, that’s when its products shine.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Linked by Jason Snell

Tom Negrino: 1956-2017

Tom Negrino, longtime Apple writer and community member, passed away on March 15.

In lieu of flowers, Tom asked that donations be made to App Camp for Girls. He supported their message of gender equality in tech from the beginning.

Rest, Tom.