Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

This month, join us and Relay FM in supporting St. Jude.

By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: It’s time to expand the Apple Watch line

Since first introducing the Apple Watch, Apple has worked hard to clarify the product, steering it to where most users found it the most useful — notifications and activity tracking. The fanciful dream of the Apple Watch taking over every single task once managed by the iPhone is mostly dead and gone.


This change has happened in both hardware and software.

At first, Apple positioned the stainless steel model as the default Apple Watch, with the cheaper aluminum “sport” model as somewhat of a step down. Unsurprisingly, it seems that the vast majority of Apple Watches sold are of the aluminum variant, and Apple has shifted, putting a larger focus on those models—leaving fancier finishes on sale, but maybe a little on the back burner.

watchOS has changed drastically over its short lifespan. I’m hard pressed to think what other operating system and platform has seen so much fundamental change in just five years.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: When Apple stumbles

Ping

With iOS 14 now humming along in beta form, many people (myself included) are excited about the possibilities of widgets. I’m excited to see what the developers of some of my favorite apps do with them over the coming months.

However, I can’t help but think that we’ll all suffer from a little Widget Madness before scaling back to what we find truly useful.

That’s not to say that I don’t think widgets will be popular and successful — I just think that there will see a spike in popularity before things level off.

Of course, not all technology that Apple ships does level off. Some things miss the mark with consumers and wither on the vine. Here are a few examples in recent history that come to mind for me.

iMessage Apps

With 2016’s iOS 10, Apple attempted to make Messages more than just a replacement for SMS that could sync between all of a user’s devices.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: A Tour of System Preferences in Big Sur

Any time there is a big set of UI changes in macOS, I like to see what Apple has done to the System Preferences app. As you can see, Catalina and Big Sur’s versions of the app are pretty different:

Big Sur is still pretty early in its beta lifecycle, so some of these decisions could change over time (and I’m sure the Notifications icon will be swapped for a high-resolution one) but I think we can get a good feel for where Apple is going here.

First, the application still has the sam structure that Apple introduced lat year, with the Apple ID and Family Sharing preference panes taking up the top of the window,1 with the other panes filing in below in sections that were stripped of their names after Mountain Lion. System Preferences even retains the Spotlight-style search UI:

This year, many the icons have been revisited to better match Big Sur’s more colorful and lifelike palette of application icons.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: Life After WWDC

WWDC 2020 has come and gone, and for the first time in the event’s 31-year history, the conference was entirely online.

In the Ye Olden Days, developers could get copies of WWDC sessions on VHS or DVD, and eventually watch them online. Over the last few years, Apple has worked hard to get session videos online faster and faster.

Of course this year, none of those edit-and-upload-as-quickly-as-possible skills were needed, as the entire conference was done in advance, ready to stream online like content from Netflix or Hulu.

This revised format, forced upon Apple and its community due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, worked very well. Session videos were shorter and tighter, and since they can be watched whenever it’s convenient, developers don’t have to worry about juggling sessions to fit their schedules.

Then there’s the much more important topic of access. Apple has bajillions of developers, but WWDC is impossible to attend for most of them.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: The battle for the next iPhone connector

Since USB-C first appeared on the 2015 MacBook, Apple users have seen it appear on more and more products, usually with its more powerful friend Thunderbolt 3 along for the ride into battle.

USB-C met a fierce adversary on its road to total control, though: the Lightning port.

Lightning first appeared on the iPhone 5, and quickly took over as the default connector on just about everything Apple sells that isn’t a computer. On my desk alone, I have Lightning ports on my keyboard, Trackpad, AirPods case and iPhone.

There’s only one realm where Lightning has fallen to USB-C: the iPad Pro. That change has made using audio interfaces, external storage and other accessories much easier to use with the device, even if other, lesser iPads are still under the iron fist of Lightning.

The truth is, many of us would like to see USB-C take over everything in the Land of Apple.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: Revisiting Twitter.app

For the last month of so, I’ve been using Twitter’s official apps for iPhone, iPad and Mac. I’ve used Tweetbot for years, but as Twitter has continued to hamstring third party clients, I can’t help but think that sooner or later, the company will pull the plug on them altogether.

I have found the experience of Twitter’s official apps to be a pretty mixed bag. One on hands, I can see polls and create threads easier than ever, and when I’m in the mood to see what’s trending, the experience is much richer than in Tweetbot.

As someone who has their DMs open, this experience is also better in Twitter’s apps. Not only do push notifications work instantly, but Twitter will separate out “Requests,” or DMs from people you don’t follow. This has caught a fair bit of spam or other messages that would just be right in-line in Tweetbot.

…aaaaand that’s about all the upsides I can think of in switching to the Twitter app.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: After five years, Apple has restored MacBook clarity

iPad with trackpad

Five years is a long time, especially in consumer electronics. The iPhone went from the original model to the iPhone 5 in as many years. Just think about how many changes took place in that time frame; the iPhone 5’s screen was both larger and more dense than the original, and it packed in LTE, a Lightning port, a much better camera and shockingly better performance in a chassis that weighed less, was thinner and much better built.

Likewise, the 12.9-inch iPad Pro was introduced just five years after the original iPad, and the entire run of pre-Retina MacBooks lasted just five years.

That brings us to the 2020 MacBook Air, which Jason recently reviewed. Due to the current situation we all find ourselves in, I haven’t been able to play with one in an Apple Store, but I did buy my wife a 2018 MacBook Air a few months after it was introduced, and in my review of that laptop, I praised Apple for bringing the MacBook Air into the modern air, but raised concerns about the keyboard.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: Changing the Virtual Channel

For All Mankind

I watched and enjoyed both The Morning Show and For All Mankind. In fact, I’m excited to see where the shows go in their second season this year.

…and I haven’t looked at Apple TV+ since.

My wife and I are going to start the second season of Jack Ryan sometime soon, so the Amazon Prime app will see the light of day for a little while, and if something pops up on Netflix, we’ll then spend time there.

I hadn’t thought about this phenomenon until Jason and Myke answered a question about it on Upgrade #282, but I definitely hop around from service to service as we find things to watch on them.

We’re aren’t even cord-cutters — we have never paid for cable — but this is all starting to feel like cable. The abundance of content across the services we pay for is simply astonishing, but we are probably paying for things we don’t need or probably even want.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: Room for a larger MacBook Air

Apple’s laptop lineup is in a very different place than it was just a few years ago, when the largest notebook you could get was 15.4-inches in size, and the smallest came with a 12-inch display and just one lonely USB-C port.

Both of those machines are gone. The 16-inch MacBook Pro looks like a great option for those who need a lot of power on the road. If you were a 12-inch MacBook kind of user … well … uhhh. Hmm.

I don’t know if Apple would ever make a MacBook Air smaller than its current 13.3-inch size, but I do think it should make one that’s bigger.

For years, if you wanted a big notebook from Apple, you had to pay for power and features that you didn’t necessarily need. Lots of people would like something larger than the Air, but don’t have any need for stuff like 6-core i7 processors or the Touch Bar.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: The year of Macintosh

With the holidays here, it’s always a good time to reflect on what we’re thankful for, remembering the blessings in our lives.

As a Mac user, there’s a lot to celebrate this year. Apple remains dedicated to meeting the hardware needs of Mac users all across the spectrum, from those buying their first MacBook Air to take to college, to the professional who is about to order a Mac Pro next month.

Then there is Mac Catalyst, which should usher in a new era of app development atop macOS, unlocking the riches of the iOS ecosystem for Mac users. SwiftUI, while still a ways off, should continue that work as Apple strives to unify their various platforms in new and interesting ways.

There’s also Apple’s general approach to the Mac and its operating system. While there are those in the community who would like to see Apple move more aggressively in changing the Mac, I don’t see things that way.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: Apple, the Media Company

When Apple dropped “computer” from it name the morning of the first iPhone keynote, it was jarring for some, and upsetting for others. Mat Honan wrote this for PCWorld and Macworld at the time:

Formerly Apple Computer, the name change reflects the company’s newfound emphasis on consumer electronics. Jobs revealed the change following announcements on the new Apple TV and iPhone, with no new Mac configurations announced whatsoever.

You can sense the saltiness about the lack of Mac announcements. I don’t know if Honan meant for that to be there, but I think a lot of people felt it.

The truth is, “Apple, Inc.” was a better name for the company as it transitions from the Mac and iPod to a wider range of products, which would expand in later years to not only add the iPhone and Apple TV, but the iPad, Apple Watch and audio products like AirPods and the HomePod as well.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: Amazon’s iOS problem and opportunity

Amazon recently held an event in which the company announced a whole bunch of products, ranging from a new high-end Echo to take on the likes of Sonos, to a pair of glasses that contain a Bluetooth headset and microphone.

The majority of these products are either powered by, or provide access to, Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. Take the glasses, for example. Here are Dan Seifert and Chris Welch at The Verge:

The glasses pair with your Android phone and can read out notifications, make phone calls, and play audio, including music and podcasts. You can also ask Alexa for rundowns of your calendar, the news, weather, and the usual things you’ve come to expect. A “VIP” filter will let wearers choose which notifications they want read aloud and which should remain only on their phone for later. However, Amazon notes that iOS is unsupported out this time, leaving out iPhone owners entirely.

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: What Sidecar says about the future of the Mac

Coming with macOS Catalina and iPadOS 13, Sidecar bridges the Mac and iPad experience, turning for latter into an external display for the former.

For full details, be sure to check out John Voorhees’s article on the subject, but today, I want to talk about Sidecar through the lens of what it could mean about the future of the Mac.

Sidecar will allow you to mirror your Mac’s display on an iPad or use the iPad like a traditional external display. Additionally, any window can be sent to the iPad’s display via a new contextual menu item available when hovering over the green stoplight button on any macOS window. Which is … weird:

On the surface, it would appear that Sidecar basically means Apple is officially supporting accessing macOS via a touchscreen, something the company has not yet done with their Mac notebooks.

The devil, as they say, is in the details.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: On the possible return of the six-color Apple logo

There’s a (somewhat sketchy) rumor going around about a very specific detail about (possible) future Apple hardware. Here’s Joe Rossignol at MacRumors:

Apple may be planning to reintroduce its classic rainbow logo on some of its new products as early as this year, according to a well-connected MacRumors tipster, who in turn cites a corporate Apple employee in Cupertino.

When I said this one is a bit shaky, I wasn’t joking. Rossignol goes on:

To be clear, this rumor could very well be untrue. We have elected to share it since it comes from a tipster who has longstanding connections to both Apple and related industries, but no other sources have shared similar information that we know of. And, even if true, the plans could certainly change.

Even with all of that couching, I love this idea.

Of course, there’s the historic use of the six color logo when it comes to Apple hardware.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: No company does transitions like Apple

See, even Steve Jobs’ keynote slide agrees!

Steve Jobs at Intel switch
Steve Jobs at Intel switch

Over the past 30 years, they’ve had several major changes, just in regards to the Mac platform:

  • 68k to PowerPC processors
  • PowerPC to Intel processors
  • MacOS to Mac OS X
  • 32-bit to 64-bit
  • Carbon to Cocoa

Some of these went more smoothly than others — pour one out for 64-bit Carbon, I suppose — but on the whole, Apple has been able to move the Mac through several major changes that may have killed a less-formidable platform.

Here in 2019, it feels like we’re on the edge of another time of change, and that’s ignoring the probable pending arrival of ARM Macs. Apple is slowly drawing back the curtains on its view of the future, and in that future, the Mac is more closely aligned with its siblings in terms of low-level software and the apps that can run atop that foundation.…

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By Stephen Hackett

Considering Mac hardware at WWDC

Last May, I wrote about my Mac hardware wishes here in this very newsletter, and with the WWDC keynote just days away, I thought I could do the same this year.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room. I hope — and fully expect — Apple to unveil the new Mac Pro at this year’s conference. Like the Retina MacBook Pro in 2012 and the iMac Pro in 2017, this machine would receive a warm welcome at WWDC. Developers are probably the largest single segment of this machine’s potential customer base, and impressing them with the ins and outs of a new Mac Pro would be a fun (albeit overdue) way to start the week.

One-year-ago-Stephen wrote this:

[Apple should unveil a] redesigned, more robust keyboard for the MacBook and MacBook Pro. The problems of debris and broken keycaps is well covered, so I won’t re-tread them here, but I really think Apple needs to address the issues with these machines.

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: Ikea: 1, Stephen: 0

In our house, I have several lamps plugged into outlets via iHome Smart Plugs, in order to control these otherwise dumb light fixtures with HomeKit.

Like many of these devices, an iOS application is required, and like many of these apps, the iHome Control app is not very good. Coupled with service outages on the iHome side of things that have left my plugs unresponsive for hours at a time, I have been looking for a new solution.

Then I saw that that IKEA had added HomeKit support to its Trådfri smart plugs, so I dropped by my local IKEA and picked one up, as well as the required $30 Trådfri Gateway hub.

As you would expect from IKEA, both devices are very clean and minimal looking:

Ikea stuff
Ikea stuff

After setting up the gateway on my network with the included power and ethernet cables, I downloaded the Trådfri iOS app on my iPhone.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: The Times They Are A-Changin’

When the original iPod scrolled onto the scene in 2001, some of the Mac faithful were concerned it was going to be a distraction for Apple, a company that was still digging out of the massive hole of the 1990s.

When the iTunes Store opened 16 years ago, I think people knew it was gong to propel the iPod to new heights, especially when it showed up on Windows several months after launch.

The iPod and iTunes were, in many ways, two sides of the same coin. They made each other more valuable, both to Apple and its customers.

That symbiotic relationship is right out of Apple’s playbook, and something the company tries to repeat when possible. After all, it’s the combination of hardware, software and services that makes so many of the company’s products good.

That’s what makes Apple TV, and in particular Apple TV+ so interesting.

The company has spent over a billion dollars on creating its own content for the upcoming streaming service.…

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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: Lightning is All Around Us

USB-C is slowly but surely taking over the world. From the MacBook to the iPad and beyond, the powerful, flexible interface promises data and power, all through a single connector.

In this world, some have hoped that Apple would replace the port Lightning on the iPhone with a USB-C port. Considering that is a huge topic for another time, but thinking about this got me wondering about how many other Apple products use Lightning. What started as the new iPhone connecter has slowly been used in other Apple products. Once I started thinking about how many, I was surprised to see just how far the connector has spread.

The most important non-iPhone product using the Lightning connector is the entire iPad line, minus the 2018 iPad Pros. Apple still sells the iPad mini, the 9.7-inch iPad and the old 10.5-inch iPad Pro, starting at $399, $329 and $649, respectively.

It is easy to look at this and think that Apple is using USB-C to differentiate the iPad Pro, but until iOS does a lot more to utilize it, I think it’s a point of confusion and frustration for some buyers.…

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