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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

First Look: iPadOS 14 Public Beta

Siri UI
Siri’s UI no longer takes over the whole screen in iPadOS 14.

The latest update to Apple’s tablet operating system is a bit of a contradiction. Yes, it’s full of new features and enhancements, but at the same time, a few of the most prominent features of its sibling iOS are nowhere to be found here.

Apple is always balancing its priorities, and some years one device or another might get more attention. This year seems to be an off-one for the iPad, but even if it doesn’t get all the bells and whistles as the iPhone, but it’s still got more than a few significant changes. Let’s take a look at a few of the biggest updates.

Continue reading “First Look: iPadOS 14 Public Beta”…


This is a great time for sitting at home and watching things so let’s talk about what’s on the telly. (Brought to you by our new Rebound Prime membership!)


This week, on the 30-minute tech show that knows how to Tik Tok, Dan and guest host Jason Snell are joined by special guests Ant Pruitt and Kathy Campbell to discuss how staying home has impacted our use of social media, the tech we’ve ordered since the start of the pandemic, the subscription service we’d recommend to others, and low-tech solutions to high tech problems.


By Dan Moren for Macworld

The Mac never left, but it’s about to have a comeback

There’s never been a more exciting time to be a Mac user.

And I say that as someone who’s been one for nearly 30 years now, ever since my dad brought home a Macintosh LC in 1991. I lived through the transition to PowerPC, the dark years of the nineties, and the move to both Mac OS X and Intel processors.

Through all that time, the Mac has remained my workhorse. But in recent years, it often seemed as though the old stalwart had been overshadowed by the flashier iPhone and iPad lines, relegated to an afterthought in Apple’s mind.

After this year’s WWDC, however, the Mac is looking more like the Apple product that’s poised to have a huge impact. As we consider the calendar of the next couple years, there is a tremendous amount for Mac users to get excited about.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


By Dan Moren

The Back Page: We Are Absolutely Not Merging macOS and iPadOS Except It Depends on What You Mean by “Merging”

Thanks so much for coming to WWDC, everybody. Even though this year’s conference is being held virtually, we still found it a delight to have our huge and wonderful developer community all here. Now turn off your Wi-Fi. You’re slowing everything down.

We know this year’s keynote was full of big announcements, and that some of those announcements may have caused consternation amongst our most devoted users. So, once again, we want to make something abundantly clear to all of you out fretting there: We are not merging macOS and iPadOS.…

This is a post limited to Six Colors members.


Apple adds web interface for managing Apple Card

Apple emailed customers of its Apple Card to let them know that it’s now added a web-based interface for managing the credit card:

We’ve added the ability to access and manage Apple Card online. You can use card.apple.com to make, schedule, or cancel payments; check your available credit; view Monthly Statements; and review your Apple Card Customer Agreement, APR, and other rate information.

Hard to believe, but before this you couldn’t manage your Apple Card on either an iPad or a Mac. It seems pretty close to the iPhone interface, only there’s no way (that I could see) to export your transactions in formats other than PDF at present. But it took a while to add those to the Wallet app too, so not a huge surprise.

Update: As eagle eyed reader Biff points out, you can manage some elements of the Apple Card on the iPad under Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay > Apple Card, although it doesn’t let you view statements or give you information about your spending habits.


This week we have a fabulous deal for our listeners: more us! Have a listen for more information.


This week, on the 30-minute tech show where our information is never second-hand, Dan and guest host Jason Snell welcome Brianna Wu and Matthew Cassinelli to discuss our strategy for adopting Apple software betas, the future of gaming on Apple silicon, when we’ll buy an Apple silicon Mac, and what we’d like to automate for social good. Be sure to listen all the way to the end for some extra special bonus content.


By Dan Moren

Service Station: iPhone Upgrade Program

After years of spending every fall hemming and hawing over whether or not I was going to buy a new iPhone, I decided in 2015 to sign up for Apple’s newly unveiled iPhone Upgrade Program. First offered alongside the iPhone 6s, the Upgrade Program allows you to pay for your phone on a month-by-month basis over the course of two years. While that might not save you on the cost of the phone outright, it helped avoid having to plop down several thousand dollars in a single go.…

This is a post limited to Six Colors members.


Why AnyList isn’t supporting Sign in with Apple

AnyList, a popular app and service for creating and sharing lists of all kinds, won’t be supporting Sign in with Apple, and a blog post by co-founder Jeff Hunter explains why:

Another sign of Sign in with Apple’s immaturity is the sad state of the documentation for it. Good documentation is critical to facilitating developer adoption of any service. Since Apple is expecting developers to adopt this service by June 30th, it seems reasonable to expect decent documentation. Sadly, like most of Apple’s recent developer documentation, it’s sorely lacking. For example, Apple vaguely states that you can implement Sign in with Apple on Android, but there is no direct documentation on how to do it.

So, there’s a lot going on here. I think, for the most part, AnyList’s concerns are well-founded for their particular offering. There are a number of things that the app needs to do that aren’t supported well by Sign in with Apple—for example, the ability to share lists with another user. Or cross-platform support with Android.

Other concerns are perhaps more overblown, such as the recent, now patched, security flaw in the system. It’s not that such a vulnerability isn’t serious, but extrapolating a huge fundamental flaw in the program is perhaps overstating the matter.

Certainly, not every app should be required to use Sign in with Apple. My wife and I use AnyList to share our shopping list, and I have no compunction about having created an account with their service.1 But mandating Sign in with Apple in cases where apps already support a different sign-in service seems not unreasonable.

I think it’s fair for AnyList to say Sign in with Apple simply isn’t the right solution for its product. As part of compliance with the new rule, AnyList will be removing Facebook, the only other third-party sign in option they offer, which Hunter points out had lots of its own problems, including poor privacy protections.

The deadline for the new rule takes effect today, so it’ll be interesting to see how many apps implement Sign in with Apple, and how many follow AnyList’s example.


  1. That said, if they got bought by Facebook, Amazon, or some other big company, I would probably reconsider. 

New York Times will no longer be in Apple News

The Verge’s Chaim Gartenberg reports that New York Times articles will no longer be available in the Apple News app:

While Apple has had a tougher time getting publishers (including the Times) to sign on for its monthly News Plus subscription — which costs $9.99 per month and offers access to a variety of magazines and newspapers (including The Wall Street Journal, the Los Angeles Times, The New Yorker, Wired, and more) — the free version of Apple News has offered a much larger array of news. While the Times only offered a few free articles to Apple News, its departure still makes it one of the biggest names to abandon Apple’s service since The Guardian left in 2017.

Even Apple can’t snap their fingers and fix the challenges of news journalism in the 21st century.


By Dan Moren for Macworld

What WWDC20 tells us about where its device roadmap is going

The keynote at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference may be one of the biggest events of the company’s year, but it only ever scratches the surface. Not every change or update makes it into the presentation—even when it’s pushing two hours, as it was this year.

As people begin to dig into the betas and watch all of the attendant technical sessions, there’s a lot more that’s coming to light. And while much of that information is about things happening in the here and now, or perhaps about the products that will be released in the near future, this is Apple we’re talking about. The company plays the long game.

That, in turn, has encouraged those in the Apple community to start digging into the details and, of course, read the tea leaves about not only what’s in the pipeline for later this year, but also what some of these changes mean for the future of Apple’s device roadmap.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Safari 14 doesn’t block Google Analytics

Developer Simo Ahava breaks down exactly what the effect of the new Safari’s Privacy Report on technologies like Google Analytics is:

Not really. The fact that google-analytics.com has its ability to leverage third-party storage neutered means nothing to how the tool is actually used.

Google Analytics is a first-party analytics platform. [emphasis original]

It’s downloaded from Google’s servers as a JavaScript library, any identifiers are stored in first-party cookies, and any HTTP requests to the GA endpoint use these identifiers and these identifiers alone to specify the source of the tracker. No third-party storage access is being used with the requests to google-analytics.com.

It’s a bit technical, but the main thrust of it is that Privacy Report specifically aims at cross-site tracking prevention, so analytics platforms may have their capabilities limited, but they’ll continue to operate.

Ahava makes a good point, though, that the way Apple presents this information is either misleading or just not as clear as it could be. Hopefully, further refinements during the beta process will help improve that.


This week, on the 30-minute podcast that crams an hour of content into just half the time, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Jason Snell and Ish ShaBazz to discuss how iOS 14’s App Library will change our app organization habits, our thoughts on Mac Catalyst in the age of ARM Macs, how we feel about the macOS redesign, and WWDC’s new format.


By Dan Moren

WWDC 2020 Thursday: Session impressions

WWDC sessions have a way of getting more technical throughout the week, so for the laypeople among us, it gets a little tougher to pick out those aspects that the general populace might be interested in. I mean, I know you’re all waiting with bated breath to hear about function calls and implementing error handlers, but let’s not get too excited. Anyway, here are a few quick tidbits I picked up from Thursday’s sessions.

Bring keyboard and mouse gaming to iPad

Gaming with Keyboard and mouse on the iPad.
Now I’m going to get wrecked by iPad players, aren’t I?

It’s been a long time since I’ve played a game on a PC (or even my Mac), but I was once a decent FPS player back in the era of Quake 3 and I’m totally dating myself here, aren’t I.

Keyboard and mouse input have often been considered the gold standard for gaming1, and with the advent of support for external pointing devices as well as the new Magic Keyboard, Apple has moved quickly to provide APIs for games that want to take advantage of playing via these devices.

The system for using these devices is built on top of the same framework provided for external game controllers, but provides certain features tuned towards using keyboard and mice. For example, you can check whether keys on the keyboard are in up or down state, you can lock the pointer to avoid triggering system events like showing the Dock (and hiding the system cursor), and you can even implement support for scroll wheels on mice.

It’s even possible to switch between the usual cursor and keyboard support and game-related input within the game, for situations where, for example, you’re using a keyboard and mouse to play a multiplayer game, but want to allow users to access menus between matches.

Gamers will no doubt welcome these advancements, just as they did for external controller support. They also provide additional accessibility options for those who can’t or prefer not to use the touch screen or an external game controller. Moreover, they reinforce both the idea that pointer support isn’t just something Apple threw together, as well as investing in the longevity of both of these devices as input methods on both iPadOS and macOS.

Expand your SiriKit Media Intents to more platforms

Siri Alternatives UI
When you request a song, album, or artist via Siri, the UI can now provide alternatives, in case it misunderstood the request.

Maybe I’m in the minority, but I do actually use Siri fairly often to play a specific song, album, or artist. While Apple had previously added the ability for third-party music apps to hook into the virtual assistant, it’s now made some further enhancements, allowing for both support on more platforms and additional features.

The HomePod will use a new cloud playback API as well as integrating the same media intents used on iOS, and Apple TV will also now support third-party media intents, meaning that you can use Siri on the remote to play music (and presumably other media) in non-Apple applications.

There’s also a new UI for an Alternatives feature that allows apps to provide other options, in case what starts playing wasn’t exactly what you were looking for. So, for example, if you asked Siri to start playing an album but it plays the wrong song, you could use this to pick a different song from the album.

Get the Most Out of Sign in with Apple

Sign in with Apple
Converting an existing account to Sign in with Apple is about to get a lot easier.

Sign in with Apple was one of last year’s most exciting announcements, and adoption for the feature has been on the rise. But there were some limitations with the approach, and this year Apple is targeting one specific way to bolster adoption: converting existing user accounts to Sign in with Apple.

Some services do this already, but Apple’s providing a standardized API for doing so, via a few different entry points. One is when you log into a service for which you have a weak credential, like an easily guessable password. You can be prompted to update your account to Sign in with Apple, if the service provides it. Similarly, if the password manager in Settings alerts you that you have a weak password, it can offer the option to convert the account for you. Finally, developers can offer an option within their app for users to choose to convert their account.

Once the conversion process, which is largely transparent, has concluded, the old weak credential is removed, avoiding the risk of duplicating accounts. (I will say it was unclear to me whether that involves changing the account on the service’s back end, as opposed to just changing the credential within iOS/iPadOS. Is Apple trusting third-party services to merely do the right thing, and not hold on to existing account information, or does it enforce this policy somehow?)

These days, when I have the option to use Sign in with Apple when creating an account, I often take it, but there are so many services on which I already have accounts that I’m looking forward to this option being more widely available.


  1. I’ve been playing a lot of Sea of Thieves on my Xbox recently, and since the game has cross-play with the PC, one of the multiplayer options is to prefer sessions with only players using Xbox controllers, so you don’t get consistently and mercilessly slaughtered by keyboard and mouse users. I hear. 😭 

[Dan Moren is the official Dan of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at dan@sixcolors.com. His latest novel, The Aleph Extraction, is out now and available in fine book stores everywhere, so be sure to pick up a copy.]


By Dan Moren

WWDC 2020 Wednesday: Session Impressions, Part 2

The barrage of informative presentations continued on Wednesday, and among the most pressing question I had while watching them…what’s up with all the tchotchkes? Are they an attempt at giving each session a little personality? Could they be some sort of puzzle to decode? Some people have speculated they aren’t even real, but rather AR objects. The conspiracy theories abound!

Ahem. Anyway, here are a few interesting tidbits from a few of the talks I watched on Wednesday.

Meet Face ID and Touch ID for the web

Meet Face ID and Touch ID for the web
As usual, Apple has taken things a step further for privacy’s sake.

We’ve all gotten used to logging in to apps on our iPhones, iPads, and—in some cases—Macs using Touch ID and Face ID. So much so that when we visit a website and it asks us for our password, it feels extremely 20th century.

Well, good news: Apple is rolling out a way for websites to offer authentication via Face ID or Touch ID. What shouldn’t be a surprise is that on the user end the experience is almost identical to logging in to an app. Once a website offers Face ID/Touch ID as an option, you simply agree to use it, authenticate with the biometrics to prove your identity, and the next time you log in, you won’t have to enter your password.

For website providers, implementing this only requires a fairly small amount of JavaScript. It seems plausible that we’ll see more and more sites rolling this out the not too distant future, which, even if it doesn’t outright kill the password (which you still need even in this case), may help hasten its demise.

An interesting tidbit I gleaned from this presentation: as part of the process, Apple has created its own attestation service. This optional feature provides an extra step of security in which the device maker can be queried to confirm details about the device requesting authentication. Such a process might be used by higher-security institutions like banks, which could be required to enforce multi-factor verification. So, for example, a site can check with Apple that the iPhone being used for Face ID authentication is really an iPhone and it actually supports Face ID authentication.

In traditional Apple fashion, the company has layered more privacy on top of this service. As WebKit Engineer Jiewen Tan points out, an attestation service could just provide the same certificate every time it’s queried, thus providing an opportunity for cross-site tracking by comparing those certificates. So, instead, Apple issues unique certificates every time, thus anonymizing the device.

Also, one final good tip I was glad to see from this presentation: Apple’s not advising sites to use Face ID and Touch ID as the only method for authentication, given that if you lose your device, you may be out of luck. So the password is probably here to stay for a bit longer.

What’s New in Wallet and Apple Pay

Apple Pay
Contact information is now standardized, hopefully leading to fewer errors.

Apple Pay has obviously become a big part of our lives, and especially in this day and age, contactless payments have become even more popular.

While Apple Pay enhancements weren’t something really touched upon in the keynote, there is at least one very significant improvement this year: the ability to use Apple Pay in both Catalyst apps and native Mac apps.

It actually kind of surprised me to see this brought up, because I hadn’t really thought about Mac apps not having Apple Pay. Heck, I’ve done Apple Pay transactions on my Mac—but they were all via Safari. Going forward, however, any app that’s on the Mac will be able to integrate Apple Pay payments. (That makes sense especially given that upcoming Apple Silicon Macs will run iOS and iPadOS apps, which themselves will be able to take Apple Pay.)

There are a few other improvements coming as well. To anyone who has ever been frustrated by having an Apple Pay transaction fail because of an error in your address or phone number, Apple will now impose standardized formatting of contact information, and will validate the data prior to the transaction.

Finally, in order to provide a better onboarding experience for people adding cards, the Wallet app will now support an extension for issuer apps. So, if you have your bank’s app installed, the option to add your card can appear directly in Wallet.

Oh, and perhaps most excitingly, developers can now alter the corner radius of the Apple Pay button, all the way from rectangles to a pill-like shape. Let’s hear it for button configuration!

Tap into Game Center: Dashboard, Access Point, and Profile and Tap into Game Center: Tap into Game Center: Leaderboards, Achievements, and Multiplayer

Game Center
I really want to be a lighthouse keeper now.

I would not have guessed that Game Center would see a substantial overhaul in the upcoming platform updates, but I’m delighted to see that it’s getting a lot of attention.

Chief among the updates, Apple’s rolling out a new Dashboard feature that feels much more like what you might see on a game console. It collects a variety of information into one location, including your profile, your friends, your achievements, and your leaderboards.

To access the dashboard there’s a new, appropriately named Access Point that can games can integrate, which shows up as a little picture of your Game Center avatar on the menu screen of a game. (It can also optionally show other highlights, like your achievements or current leaderboard status.)

A big part of this Game Center update is pervasiveness. You can now access your profile in a variety of places, including in-game and even in the App Store, instead of having to dig into a dedicated app or the system-level Settings.

There are also new UIs for real-time and turn-based multiplayer that app developers can integrate, or roll their own, which not only let you add friends to games but nearby players as well.

Apple’s also beefed up offerings like achievements, which can now show your progress towards attaining the goal, and leaderboards, which can be configured to be recurring, resetting after a specific time period or when a particular score is reached.

Players also have more control over the visibility of their profiles, whether they’re available to everyone, just friends, or just private. And the App Store now shows you what games your friends are playing as suggestions, as well as letting you directly access their player profiles from the store.

Mostly, though, I just want to play the “The Coast”, the demo game the presenters were using. I don’t know if it’s real, but a game about being a lighthouse keeper trying to safely see cargo ships through a treacherous body of water? Sign me up.

All in all, these updates to Game Center seem like a great comeback for a feature that seemed to have been left for dead a few years back. I guess you could call it quite the…achievement.1


  1. I’ll see myself out. 

[Dan Moren is the official Dan of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at dan@sixcolors.com. His latest novel, The Aleph Extraction, is out now and available in fine book stores everywhere, so be sure to pick up a copy.]


By Dan Moren

WWDC 2020 Tuesday: Session Impressions, Part 2

One of the best things about virtual WWDC is that sessions no longer feel the need to expand their talks to fit into a certain time slot—nor does the number need to reflect available physical space. So this year, Apple seems to have provided even more sessions than usual, but many are in bite-sized chunks, and more than a few are ten minutes and under. Here are a few talks that I found interesting on Tuesday of this big week.

What’s New in SiriKit and Shortcuts

What’s New in SiriKit and Shortcuts

The keynote spent some time talking about the refinements to Siri’s UI, and the revamp of the voice assistant ties nicely into some refinements to Shortcuts, which didn’t get much stage time this year.

Namely, Shortcuts gets the same compact UI that Siri now has in iOS 14 and iPad 14. Perhaps the best part of the experience is that shortcuts no longer need to open the Shortcuts app to continue their task now. Any Shortcuts user can tell you that its previous experience of launching the app and stepping through the various actions within it was fine, but not particularly elegant.

Apple’s also increased the capabilities in this new compact UI. So, for example, a disambiguation interface—asking the user to pick an item from a list, for example—can now also provide images and subtitles in addition to the main option. That way you can be sure you’re picking the right item, such as the soup you want.

While we know that Shortcuts get folders in iOS 14, the app also includes a couple of prebuilt Smart Folders showing which shortcuts are available in the Share Sheet or on the Apple Watch. It doesn’t look like users will necessarily be able to create their own Smart Folders, though—or at least, not yet.

There have also been improvements to the Automation abilities of Shortcuts, including more trigger types like receiving an email or text message, the battery hitting a certain level, connecting to a charger, and closing an app. Plus, more of those trigger types can run automatically, requiring no prompt from the user. And the Gallery part of shortcuts will offer suggestions for automations in addition to standard shortcuts.

iOS 14’s new Wind Down feature will also provide a lot of opportunities for shortcuts as we learn more about it.

All of these features point towards Shortcuts becoming an increasingly integral part of Apple’s iOS and iPadOS platforms, and these improvements will go a long way toward making it even more approachable for many users.

Meet Safari Web Extensions

Meet Safari Web Extensions

Previous Safari extensions were tightly regimented into things like Share extensions and app extensions (think 1Password’s extension) written in Objective C or Swift. But this year, Safari gains the ability to run web extensions written in JavaScript/HTML/CSS, including those currently available for other browsers.

But Apple’s approaching this in an unsurprisingly Apple-like fashion. If you want to distribute a web extension, it’s got to be wrapped in a native Mac application designed in Xcode. Installing the app from the app store will also install the web extension.

The good news is: for developers with existing web extension written for another browser like Chrome or Firefox, Apple provides a command line tool to convert the extension into an Xcode project. That handles a lot of the work for the developer, creating essentially a barebones wrapper app—little more than a window with a button to open Safari preferences. (For testing, it uses an ad-hoc signing process, meaning you have to enable unsigned extensions in Safari’s Develop menu.) This is a hugely exciting move, since Chrome and other browsers have huge libraries of powerful extensions, and in theory not only will these be open to porting to Safari, but it could help bolster future development of extensions that work on all browsers.

Of course, Apple’s also emphasizing the effects of privacy and permissions in these extensions. For example, all extensions can be limited to working only on certain web domains. There are also granular permissions for accessing things like cookies or the current active tab. Extensions can also be configured to prompt the user for permission to access a site, and remember that permission for a certain amount of time—one day, for example. In general, Apple wants to make it transparent to users exactly what they’re allowing an extension to do—much in the same way it handles permissions elsewhere in its operating systems. And, since extensions’ JavaScript executes in a separate space from the JavaScript on a page, it prevents collision (and security problems) by interfering with the operation of a site.

One thing that I started to wonder about during this talk was the platform availability. All the demos revolved around Safari web extensions available on the Mac, though the talk makes a point of not targeting user agent strings (information a browser reports about its own version and what system it’s running on), but rather asking about features that might be present. Given that other types of Safari extensions are available on iOS/iPadOS (namely content blockers), might web extensions eventually make their way to Apple’s mobile platforms as well? One can hope.

iPad and iPhone Apps on Apple Silicon Macs

iPad and iPhone Apps on Apple Silicon Macs

There was perhaps no more surprising announcement during Monday’s keynote than the ability to run iPhone and iPad apps, unmodified, on the upcoming Apple Silicon Macs. In retrospect, given that these new Macs will run on the same processor architecture as Apple’s mobile devices, perhaps that shouldn’t have been a surprise.

But the ease of it is still kind of mind-blowing. iPad and iPhone apps will run on these Macs without even the need for recompiling. To do so, they’ll leverage the same technology that powers Mac Catalyst: the native Mac version of iOS’s UIKit.

The big question has been: if apps from iOS will run on macOS so easily, why even bother with converting an app using Mac Catalyst? Well, the latter still offers some benefits: for one thing, since iOS and iPadOS apps will run with no changes, you won’t really be able to customize their behavior on a Mac, meaning that still ultimately feel like iOS apps. For another, these apps only run on Apple Silicon Macs, so if you want to support Intel Macs—and the vast majority of Macs in existence will continue to be Intel Macs for some time yet—then Mac Catalyst is your only option.

But, if your iOS app is compatible with Apple Silicon Macs—which means it doesn’t require frameworks, functionality, or hardware that is missing on the Mac—it will automatically be available on the Mac. (However, developers can still control which of their apps are actually on the store.)

To ensure compatibility with the Mac platform, iOS app developers need to account for certain differences in hardware, UI, and system software. That includes everything from including hardware keyboard support (which will make the app a better iPadOS citizen as well) to supporting the Split View in multitasking on iPadOS, which will automatically give your app a resizable window on the Mac. (iPhone apps, however, are not resizable when run on the Mac.) It also means using the right APIs for accessing things like the file system, relying on features like Core Location (rather than specifically GPS, which Macs obviously don’t have), and not hardcoding the types of devices you expect the app to run on, i.e. detecting if this is an “iPad” or an “iPod touch.”

When it comes to distribution, making an iOS app available on the Mac is basically exactly the same as doing so on iOS, right down to the app thinning methods that deliver only the code needed for that platform. “In fact,” says Patrick Heynen of the Frameworks team, “for app thinning, a new Mac looks just like any other very capable iPad.”

The only real difference is that the Mac doesn’t support TestFlight for testing distribution…though I have to imagine that it might be on its way at some point.

Meet WidgetKit

Meet WidgetKit

There is something very important that Nahir Khan, a manager on the iOS System Experience team, needs you to know about widgets: they are not mini-apps. That means no controls or buttons or sliders. (Sorry, PCalc.)

Widgets have a very specific use case, defined by three characteristics: glanceable, relevant, and personalized. If you think that sounds familiar, you’re right—they’re the same qualities emphasized by complications on the Apple Watch, and WidgetKit even takes some of its cues from that system. And, as on the Watch, users want their information to be up-to-date and available, since, as Khan cites, people visit their iPhone home screens more than 90 times a day and seeing a bunch of loading spinners every time you go to your homescreen is definitely not a great experience.

Hence, the widget team has leveraged a similar technology from the Watch complications, building widgets using timelines. Apps can preload the widget with the information the should display at certain times. For example, if your calendar knows you have events at 9am, 9:30am, and 10am, it can give all that information to the widget, which automatically knows what information to display at the current time. If the information in the app changes—whether because it gets a background notification updating it, or a user makes a change—it can tell the widget to reload that information, so it remains up to date.

What’s cool about widgets is that they work across all different devices, are often available in a variety of sizes, and, because they’re built on the same Intents framework used for Siri and Shortcuts, they can handle configuration automatically. For example, when you go to configure the Stocks widget, it can provide a list of the symbols in the Stocks app—but, if you need to find a stock that’s not already in the Stocks app, it can let the user search and then use the Intents framework to go and search for the right symbol. Basically, this helps make it easier for app developers to add widgets without having to redo all the work they did in their app.

Even though widgets may not be mini-apps, they do support deep-linking into a certain part of an app. For example, tapping on an album in the Music widget can take you to a view of that album in the app. And is it possible that interactivity might be available in the future? I wouldn’t rule it out, though it seems as though Apple is happy to keep these as mainly readable experiences for the time being.

Widgets have, of course, been around for a long time on the Mac, where they used to live in Dashboard; more recently, they’ve provided some more minor functionality in the Today view on Apple’s platforms. But with WidgetKit and the changes in iOS 14, it seems clear that they’re about to be catapulted into prime time with their appearance on the iPhone home screen.

[Dan Moren is the official Dan of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at dan@sixcolors.com. His latest novel, The Aleph Extraction, is out now and available in fine book stores everywhere, so be sure to pick up a copy.]


Apple announced many things! And we talk about them in this episode. At some point Lex leaves.


By Dan Moren

WWDC 2020: The little stuff you might have missed

As always, Apple’s WWDC keynote was jam-packed with more jam than a packing plant full of jam. We all saw the big top line items: Macs switching to ARM, iOS apps running on the Mac, cats and dogs living together. But the sheer loudness of that news drowned a host of other little interesting tidbits that are significant in their own right. Here are just a few of the ones that caught my eye.

Tap tap revolution

As a new Accessibility option, iOS 14 allows you to trigger actions by double- or triple-tapping the back of your phone. While this is definitely useful for people for whom the touch screen is unwieldy, it also has surprisingly big implications for all users, in that Apple hasn’t really allowed you to define systemwide actions before.

Federico Viticci reports that you can even use this action to trigger a custom shortcut, which is kind of wild. Given how many Apple features have showed up as Accessibility options before becoming more robust features—hello, cursor support—it makes me wonder if this might be a harbinger of some more in-depth systemwide capabilities in a future version of iOS.1

App Store review process, reviewed

Even after last week’s high profile clash between the developers of email app Hey and Apple’s App Store review process, there was skepticism from many quarters—including yours truly—that Apple would do anything to address the weaknesses in its relationship with developers. And while the company remained mum during its keynote, it did announce that it would be making a couple of high profile changes.

First, developers can now not only challenge whether or not their app actually violates an App Store guideline, but they can also challenge the guideline itself.2 Of course, this means absolutely nothing until we see how the process actually works, but the possibility of overturning an App Store guideline is wild. This is like Apple creating a Supreme Court of App Review. (Though let’s not be too altruistic: I’m sure Apple hopes that it will short circuit the current process of going public, thus potentially saving them the bad PR of having people yelling about the issues on Twitter.)

Second, Apple says it will no longer hold up bug fix updates because of App Store review guidelines. Frankly, this should have always been the case—not only was this a bad policy for developers, but it was actively user-hostile, forcing customers into two bad options: keep using apps with annoying or potentially serious bugs or stop using the app altogether, all because of bureaucratic guidelines.

While these are moves in the right direction, I doubt they will be enough to stave off the government inquiries that are already underway, nor earn back all the goodwill that the company has burned with developers.

The Force will not always be with you

Apple effectively killed 3D Touch last year by replacing it with the haptic touch feature in the iPhone 11 line, but it looks like its old-friend/the-same-exact-feature-with-a-different-name Force Touch is not long for the world either. MacRumors reports that watchOS 7 is shifting developers away from using the Force Touch interaction, in favor of exposing those features in other ways.

Gotta say, I’m not broken up about that. Force Touch was clever, but too often it concealed features that were not easily discoverable. Moreover, I’m sure the technology to detect those harder presses took up space in the Apple Watch that could have been used for other things—battery, for example, or just making the Watch slimmer.

My question is, now that Force Touch/3D Touch are gone on the Watch and on future iPhones, will it also quietly be phased out on the Mac? (That is, if anybody even remembers that it’s actually there in the first place…)

Never taken a Shortcut before?

Apple’s Shortcuts automation system got very little time on stage (what there was was mostly linked to the new Wind Down feature), but the app itself did get a number of useful enhancements, including folders, copy and pasting actions within shortcuts, new automation triggers, and running Shortcuts on the Apple Watch, including triggering them from complications on the watch face.

These changes make Shortcuts even more useful for its most devoted users. It warms the cockles of my heart to see Apple continue to invest in the power and utility of Shortcuts, even if it doesn’t give them much time in front of the keynote audience.

Other feature tidbits

iOS 14 has a very cool new Accessibility feature that can recognize certain sounds, like fire alarms and animals, and then provide notifications to users. This is potentially amazing—and heck, life-saving—for hard-of-hearing folks who might otherwise not catch these sounds.

There’s now an NFC reader button in Control Center.

Game Center got a refresh! Who had that one on the bingo card?!

EMOJI SEARCH ON iOS.

I’m sure there’s plenty more out there that hasn’t been uncovered, not to mention all the myriad sessions coming this week. But don’t worry, even though some times some things go slipping through the cracks, these two gumshoes are picking up the slack.


  1. Really looking forward to launching an app by tapping its name in Morse code on the back of my phone. 
  2. This is some real attack and dethrone god stuff. 

[Dan Moren is the official Dan of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at dan@sixcolors.com. His latest novel, The Aleph Extraction, is out now and available in fine book stores everywhere, so be sure to pick up a copy.]