Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

Support this Site

Become a Six Colors member to read exclusive posts, get our weekly podcast, join our community, and more!

‘The iOS App Icon Book’

Michael Flarup just launched a Kickstarter for a book all about the art of iOS app icons:

The iOS App Icon Book features hundreds of works of art from individuals and teams around the world. It serves as an inspiration and as a historical collection covering more than a decade of design on the iOS platform. The icons in this book have been carefully curated to showcase conceptual and executional excellence in icon design and covers a broad range of applications, topics, and styles.

He’s been working on this a long time.

It’s already funded, of course, but you can back it for €60 ($70). It looks to be a gorgeous art book/coffee table book that preserves the history of iOS app icon art, while also delving into the process of designing some notable app-icon favorites. The sample pages look amazing.

—Linked by Jason Snell

By Dan Moren

Review: Lutron Aurora bridges the gap between Hue bulbs and wall switches

Much as I love some good smart home lighting, there’s nothing worse than running into a problem that is singularly dumb. Recently, I detailed the smart home lighting setup in my new house, and noted that in addition to installing Lutron Caseta switches, I had also repurposed my older Hue bulbs as overhead lights in my office.

Just one problem: that meant that I could no longer use the wall switch to turn the overhead lights on and off, and instead had to use Siri, pull out my phone, or stumble inside in the dark to find the Hue dimmer switch that I magneted to my filing cabinet.

I’d resigned myself to sticking the dimmer switch to the wall next to the existing switch1 when I stumbled across a clever product that seemed like the perfect antidote to my problems: the Lutron Aurora.

Lutron Aurora
The switch (left) clicks into a bracket (right) that sits on the wall switch and is tightened in place with a screw.

The Lutron Aurora is a smart switch designed specifically to work with Hue bulbs (though it can work other Zigbee bulbs as well) and looks like a traditional round dimmer control. It comes in two parts: there’s bracket that you put on a single-pole (or toggle) light switch and then tighten with a screw to keep in place and the dial itself snaps onto that. Installation is fast: it probably took me less than a minute, plus about 30 seconds to pair the switch to my bulbs in the Hue app.

Now I have a wall switch that I can press to turn on and off the lights in my office, and even dim them using the rotating dial control. Best of all, it means I don’t accidentally trip over anything on the floor of my office while groping around to turn the lights on.

While I set up the Aurora with the Hue Bridge I already use my setup, it’ll work without one as well, letting you directly control up to a dozen Zigbee light bulbs. It’s powered by a small CR2032 coin-cell battery, which Lutron says will last up to about 3 years and is easily replaceable. And it doesn’t require any wiring or permanent installation: you can always just remove it later, no harm done.

Just as a note, technically the Aurora doesn’t support HomeKit, but since it communicates directly with the Hue bulbs, that’s hardly a dealbreaker. It basically works in parallel and I’ve had no problem, say, turning on the bulbs with the Home app and turning them off with the Aurora, or vice versa. It does mean you’ll have to do configuration via Hue’s app, which means using their light states/scenes/recipes, but since it’s kind of a set-and-forget-it usage, I don’t foresee any significant issues.

The Aurora’s $40 price tag isn’t dirt cheap, but for me, it’s more than worth that to let me keep my Hue bulbs in service and solve the annoyance of a light switch I can never use.


  1. But I couldn’t bring myself to tape the light switch into my place. The idea physically pains me. 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief 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.]


Now that the M1 Pro and M1 Max have arrived, we turn our attention to the future of Apple silicon in 2022 and beyond. Will there be new chips every year, or is that too rapid a pace? Also, we’ve spent another week with the new MacBook Pro, Google makes a daring legal move in Korea, and we take the long view on Apple’s record fiscal year.


By Dan Moren for Macworld

How 2022 could be a game-changing year for Apple

As the waning days of 2021 are upon us, it’s time once again to look ahead to the future, to the horizon. Despite a global pandemic and supply chain woes aplenty, Apple has had a blockbuster year, with successful launches of new iPhones and iPads, and a continued transition on the Mac that is redefining the product line for the next generation.

But in the tech business, you’re only as good as your next move. No company can afford to rest on its laurels, and even Apple, with all of its success, is not an exception. So as we start thinking about closing the books on 2021, it’s worth looking ahead to that puck that Apple’s skating towards. And while we may have good reason to anticipate some of its upcoming products, there are always places where Apple could have something surprising up its sleeve.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


November 5, 2021

Better late than never, the big three: Charts, canyons, and clever automations.

Become a member (members, sign in) to listen to this podcast and get more benefits.


Help a Mac automation find Focus

I’m intrigued by the new Focus modes in macOS Monterey and iOS 15, but frustrated by the fact that there’s no easy way for an automation tool to detect the current Focus status.

Except! There is. If you know where to look. After lamenting this situation in the Automators Forum, Drew Kerr swept in with a solution—namely a JavaScript for Mac Automation script that parses the contents of the Do Not Disturb database in ~/Library/DoNotDisturb and returns the name of the current Focus mode, or “No focus” if there’s no current focus.

You can save this as a script in Script Editor, or as a .jxa text file that you can run from the command line:

osascript -l JavaScript ./whichfocus.jxa

Or you can do what I did, and pour it into Shortcuts’ Run JavaScript for Automation action. There are many options.

I love this. Thanks to Drew for figuring it out… and say, Apple, don’t you think “get current Focus mode” should just be an action in a future version of Shortcuts?

—Linked by Jason Snell

By Dan Moren

Monterey’s new screensaver is probably a trip through an underwater canyon

Amongst the additions in macOS Monterey are a couple new screensavers—I know, try and contain your excitement. One is the retro “Hello” module inspired by Steve Jobs’s introduction of the original Macintosh.

The other is the eponymous “Monterey” module, which appears to be a pretty minimalist series of shifting color images, along the same pink-purple palette that Apple’s used in many of its dynamic desktop wallpapers in Big Sur.

Monterey screensaver

But reader Josef uncovered something interesting about the Monterey screen saver, and it turns out that it’s more complicated than you might think.

While poking around in the file for the Monterey screensaver (which you can find at /System/Library/Screen Savers/Monterey.saver), Josef found a file called canyon.abc inside the package. That’s an Alembic 3D file that appears to contain a mapping of (as the name suggests) a canyon. If you open the file in Preview, you’ll find that you can actually zoom in and out and pan around the image.

Monterey Canyon model

Combined with a second file in the Monterey screen saver, camera paths.abc, it seems pretty clear that what might look like simply an abstract series of colors is actually an animated trip through this 3D model of a landscape—not dissimilar in some ways to the Aerial screensaver on the Apple TV.

Which raises the question: Where exactly is this canyon?

The name Monterey, of course, seems to suggest this is likely Monterey Canyon, the enormous underwater canyon in Monterey Bay, California.

I’ve pulled up a few other three dimensional maps of Monterey Canyon, but it’s hard to tell exactly where this might correspond. The screensaver model seems to be only a partial reconstruction, and it’s mainly concerned with the areas where the camera seems to traverse—just that big central loop; plus, it’s hard to get a sense of the scale or orientation.

Still, it’s a pretty cool little easter egg that makes a mere screensaver decidedly more complex than at first glance.1


  1. Even without any flying toasters. 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief 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.]


Some of us are going to virtual reality. The rest of us are stuck in this stupid reality.


Microsoft and Facebook’s new metaverse moves, Netflix’s entry into the games market, Zoom’s consideration of an ad-supported model, and how we deal with needing to use Windows on our Apple silicon Macs.


What happens when a TV network has a potential big hit, but doesn’t have a streaming strategy to find an audience? Are sports leagues finally going to risk their fat cable contracts in order to build a local streaming service? And what’s up in Australia?


By Dan Moren

The trials and travails of iOS 15’s digital vaccine cards

Apple’s added a few features over the last couple years that help us cope with our current world situation, whether it be unlocking our iPhones with our Apple Watches or improvements to FaceTime. In iOS 15.1 last month, it rolled out the ability to store a digital version of your vaccine record in the Wallet app.

With more and more places requiring proof of vaccination, it seems like digital vaccine records would be the way to go—way better than trying to cram that huge card into your wallet. So I decided to give it a whirl.

But if there’s been any constant in my interactions with health and technology (especially over the last year and a half), it’s that things are always more complex than it seems like they should be—especially here in the U.S., where healthcare is a fractured mess of public and private concerns.1

COVID-19 vaccine in Wallet
I managed to get my vaccine record into my Wallet, eventually.

Such it was with vaccine cards. Apple’s system uses the SMART Health Cards specification that’s supported by a wide variety of governments, pharmacies, and healthcare providers; its goal is to create digital health records that can be easily verified.

The good news was that the healthcare network I use is a SMART Card Issuer, meaning that I ought to be able to go to my online patient portal and download the information I needed to import my vaccine records.

But not so fast: Even though I’m a patient of that network, it’s really an amalgam of a variety of different healthcare institutions (thanks to a variety of mergers, partnerships, and expansions), and many of those institutions have their own distinct online systems. After some digging around, I found that the place at which I got my vaccine had its own portal, which I don’t have access to because I’m not a regular patient at that location.2

So, in the end, I had to fill out a general-purpose PDF form authorizing that facility to release my medical records…to me. To their credit, they did reply quickly via email, providing me with a QR code that I could scan to add the vaccine record to iPhone and voilà: my digital vaccine card, complete with QR code. Tapping the tiny icon in the bottom left corner of the card opens the Health app and shows more detailed information, like which vaccine I received, and when and where the doses were administered; there’s even a nice green checkmark and a little explanation of what a verified record is.

Verification

This does, however, raise a second obstacle: uncertainty. I haven’t tried to use this digital vaccine card anywhere yet. Because even though the record is is verifiable using a freely available app, it’s unclear which places are actually going to be checking digital records. My local restaurants? Movie theaters? Many places—like airlines, restaurants, and entertainment venues—are using a variety of different systems. How do I know if they’re going to be set up to take my digital vaccine record? The last thing I want to do is to try and argue with somebody about downloading the right app. I don’t love the idea of carrying around a paper record that could be damaged or lost, but it least it has certainty on its side.

Of course, this isn’t all on Apple—after all, people on other platforms will surely have digital vaccine readers, and all those entities that want to check people’s vaccination status have a vested interest as well. But, again, that fractured system is what makes it so tough.

This isn’t the only place Apple’s dealing with this kind of issue: with iOS 15, the company also announced plans to work with states to make digital versions of driver’s licenses and state IDs. This feature is designed to work more like Apple Pay, where only certain requested information is transmitted via NFC to a reader device that can verify that information is accurate.

I’m still hopeful that having a digital vaccine card means I’ll be able to leave my paper record at home, but at the moment, it looks like I’ll probably be carrying both.


  1. Apple and Google’s exposure notification framework is a great example of a system that had a lot of potential, but the haphazard and patchy way it was rolled out across the country strongly hampered any utility it might have. (There were other problems as well, to be sure, but the implementation certainly didn’t help.) 
  2. By now I imagine a great number of our international readers who come from countries with national healthcare systems are wondering what fresh hell this is. Welcome to America! 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief 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 Stephen Hackett

It’s Time for Another ‘iMac to Go’

At Macworld New York in 1999, Apple filled out its “Grid of Four” with a consumer notebook called the iBook.

I’ve written about the iBook at length elsewhere, but the gist of the machine was pretty straightforward — Apple viewed it as an iMac to go.

Looking at the iBook, it’s not hard to see the family resemblance to the colorful, curvy iMac G3:

With the iBook, Apple was able to bring the fun and whimsy of the iMac to a portable computer that was unlike anything else on the market at the time. Its bright colors just screamed iMac!

During the introduction of the iBook, Steve Jobs said that taking the iMac spirit and putting it into a portable was about more than just the design; it was about making the best consumer notebook possible. That meant building the notebook around a 12-inch 800 x 600 display and powering the machine with a 300 MHz G3 processor coupled with the fastest possible graphics.…

This is a post limited to Six Colors members.


By Jason Snell

Fun with Charts: Apple’s fiscal year in review

Last week Apple announced the results for its fiscal fourth quarter, which was the latest in a series of records set by the company. As always, I generated a bunch of colorful charts based on the numbers.1

With the closing of the fourth quarter comes the closing of a fiscal year. And while none of us gathered around a HomePod and shouted “Happy New Year!” on midnight of Sept. 262 (the first day of the new fiscal year), as far as Apple is concerned it’s now fiscally 2022.

That means it’s time for the final totals, and an entirely new set of charts based entirely on Apple’s annual performance. This provides a fun opportunity to revisit some charts from about two years ago and look back at where the company has been, while considering where it might go next.

Let’s start with the big one. Here’s the overall Apple revenue for the last 23 years:

Apple has been on a rocket-ship ride since the debut of the iPhone. But Fiscal 2021 was like no other. Revenue was up 33% from 2020.3 After three years where revenue held steady, it’s a huge jump, the biggest in total dollars ever. Percentage-wise, though, Apple’s seen numerous years with more than 33% growth—but there hasn’t been one since 2012.

Speaking of that rocket-ship ride, here’s the instigator:

iPhone chart

Looking at any annual chart strips the seasonality out of things. (Apple is, generally, much better during the fiscal first quarter—the holiday quarter—than any other three-month span. It can make quarterly charts a little harder to read for larger trends.) However, I think this iPhone chart exposes another sort of seasonality—the iPhone upgrade cycle.

In the fall of 2014, Apple introduced the iPhone 6, with larger screens—and sales shot up. You can see it in the huge leap that iPhone sales took in 2015. Then iPhone sales tailed off for a couple of years—until fiscal 2018, which coincided with the introduction of an entirely new iPhone design in the iPhone X.

Fiscal 2021 shows another one of those spikes, and would you look at that—the iPhone 12 was a physical redesign, too. These things really do go in cycles.

Also, don’t believe any narrative that explains that Apple is doing something because iPhone sales are bad or down or stagnant. True, iPhone sales growth isn’t what it used to be in the years between 2009 and 2014, but the trend is ever upward, and 2021’s iPhone revenue numbers were the best ever.

Back in January 2020, I wrote that the 2010s “was clearly a success for the Mac, but it was an incremental success.” And if you look at the 2010s, you can see Mac revenues slowly creeping up, but largely plateauing:

But in the 2020s, at least thus far, the Mac has reached new heights. How much of this is due to a super buying cycle forced by COVID remains to be seen, but after nine straight years between 22 and 26 billion dollars in sales, the last two years have seen the Mac leap up to $29 billion and then $35 billion. The four best sales quarters in Mac history are the four quarters that comprised fiscal 2021. The Mac has never been more successful.

The shape of the iPad’s revenue trajectory isn’t like that of the iPhone or the Mac:

The iPad came on strong, with three spectacularly good sales years from 2012 to 2014. At the time, there was an expectation that the iPad was on its way to iPhone-like success. We all know what happened next—people had bought their iPads, and then they went on with their lives. iPad revenue declined for five consecutive years.

But things have changed. After a couple of years of $3 billion in revenue growth, in 2021 iPad revenues increased $8 billion to $32 billion, surpassing the all-time annual high water mark from 2013.

I don’t know where the iPad goes from here—and as with the Mac, it’s worth asking if iPad sales were goosed by COVID and will now slide backward—but after seven years of wondering if the iPad peaked in 2013, we got our answer.

And then there are the newcomers: Services and Wearables, Home & Accessories (formerly known as Other).

These are Apple’s categories that are on the way up. And while it’s hard to match the trajectory of Services, which can just keep growing as more people add Apple services to their credit cards and watch as they’re charged on a monthly or annual basis, it’s impressive how rapidly the Wearables category—powered primarily by AirPods and Apple Watch—has made itself a bigger category than either Mac or iPad.

Which brings us to the final chart, one that seeks to put all of Apple’s product lines in context. Make no mistake—the iPhone is the bulk of the business, and its growth seems even more impressive when you see it in the context of Apple’s other product lines.

Still, Services is coming on strong. I’m not sure if any of Apple’s existing product lines will ever be able to come close to iPhone revenue, but if there’s one of them that could, it’s Services.

It was quite a year for Apple. Who knows what the next one will bring? Happy fiscal 2022 to you and yours, I suppose.


  1. My charts come in many colors—it’s on brand for this site—but the numbers are monochromatic. They’re the color of money. 
  2. I sure hope someone at Apple popped a cork as the books closed on Fiscal 2021. Luca Maestri, did you have some Prosecco on ice? 
  3. I really wanted to write “from the year-ago year.” 

Netflix begins to roll out games

Netflix will begin to roll out games to its subscribers worldwide starting tomorrow:

Ash Parrish at The Verge has more detail:

Users will be able to choose from one of five games: Stranger Things: 1984, Stranger Things 3: The Game_, Shooting Hoops, Card Blast, and Teeter Up. Starting today, users can download Netflix games from the Google Play store, requiring a Netflix subscription to play. Then on November 3rd, Netflix will begin rolling out games to the app itself. When on a mobile device, Netflix Games will come packaged in its own dedicated row and have a dedicated tab.

You may be asking yourself, “How does Netflix think this will be ‘on the way’ on iOS given Apple’s app store policies that even Microsoft couldn’t get around?”

I think Steve Troughton-Smith’s tweet has this right:

If Netflix wants to be on iOS, it will almost certainly submit every game to the App Store on its own, and then you’ll connect them to your Netflix subscription in order to play them. (I imagine the Netflix app itself will gain links to those apps, but that the apps themselves will be delievered via the App Store.)

That all would seem to be within the letter of the App Store guidelines, but of course, there’s nothing stopping Apple (except publicity and regulatory scrutiny!) from amending its rules or its interpretation of those rules in order to make things harder for Netflix.

As a Netflix subscriber, do I really want games from Netflix? I can’t say that I do. It feels to me like a bit of a stretch for Netflix’s brand. But we live in an era where big tech companies are trying to take over every possible aspect of entertainment in our lives. I already read Amazon ebooks and watch Apple TV shows. Play Netflix games? Eh, sure, maybe.

—Linked by Jason Snell

We’re joined by Apple VPs Tom Boger and Tim Millet to discuss Apple’s chip-design philosophy and how it factored into the company’s first high-end Mac chips, the M1 Pro and M1 Max. Also, Jason and Myke discuss Apple’s latest record quarterly results and Myke takes delivery of his new MacBook Pro.


By Jason Snell for Macworld

M1 Pro vs. M1 Max: Which MacBook Pro is best?

One of the most interesting wrinkles about Apple’s new MacBook Pros is that the company offers them with two different chips. At first glance, you might assume that the more expensive M1 Max chip is simply a bigger, faster, more powerful chip than the less expensive M1 Pro—but looks can be deceiving. The two new chips are closely related, and depending on the kind of work you do with your MacBook Pro, the extra power of the M1 Max might not be worth the extra price.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


By Dan Moren

The Back Page: Notch your business

Reviews are in and the new MacBook Pros are a hit! Customers love the power, the battery life, the not totally garbage webcam, and the function keys that are actual keys. It’s hands down the best pro laptop Apple has made in years, and nobody could be disappointed by a single aspect of it.

Well. Except…the notch.

What used to be just a campfire tale warning children about the danger of those newfangled iPhones has now come for all of our Macs. Devouring our menu bars with no remorse. Consuming cursors with a vengeance. Concealing valuable, much-needed screen real estate.

Surely Apple, in its infinite loop wisdom, could have found a way to design around the notch. A company that can fit thousands of songs in your pocket? One that can pack so much power into smartphones that they can outperform expensive computers? That continues to make money with the efficiency of a machine designed only to make money?…

This is a post limited to Six Colors members.


October 29, 2021

Analysts, supply chains, legacy nodes, MacBook Pros, Monterey, Shortcuts. Your basic Friday.

Become a member (members, sign in) to listen to this podcast and get more benefits.


By Jason Snell for Macworld

Why Apple’s record quarter has everyone worried

It’s Record Quarter Season again. On Thursday, Apple announced another record for its fiscal fourth quarter, ending its fiscal year with a three-month period in which the company generated $83.4 billion in revenue, up 29 percent from the same quarter a year ago. (In fact, Apple’s shown very little fiscal fourth-quarter growth lately, making this quarter that much more impressive.)

Still, does a dark cloud hang over Apple? If you’re a financial analyst, maybe. And that’s the most interesting detail that came out of this week’s look into Apple’s finances.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


By Jason Snell

This is Tim: Transcript of Apple’s fourth-quarter call with analysts

Here’s our complete transcript of Apple’s conference call with financial analysts on October 28, 2021, featuring CEO Tim Cook and CFO Luca Maestri making statements and then answering a few questions from the analysts.

Tim Cook’s opening remarks

Thanks, Tejas, and good afternoon, everyone. And thank you for joining the call today. A year ago, I spoke to you about the atmosphere of uncertainty in which we were living and the way it had come to define our daily experience, both as people and as a company. Today much has changed, profoundly so. And while we are still living through unprecedented times, we are encouraged by progress around the world. I’m grateful to our teams, who have stayed resolutely focused on our customers and the pursuit of innovation on their behalf. We’ve aimed to help our customers navigate the world as it is, while empowering them to create the world as it can be. Whether it’s public health workers managing vaccination campaigns on iPhone, or students returning to classrooms full of iPads, or families staying connected over FaceTime, it is an honor to know that what we make matters and to see that reflected in the world and in our performance.

Continue reading “This is Tim: Transcript of Apple’s fourth-quarter call with analysts”…



Search Six Colors