Apple

Apple

Apple Music’s U.S. Subscriber Count Overtakes Spotify

Reuters is reporting that Apple Music has surpassed Spotify in paid monthly U.S. subscribers:

Apple Inc’s streaming music service overtook rival Spotify Technology SA in terms of paid subscribers in the United States, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters on Tuesday.

Apple’s service had 28 million subscribers as of the end of February compared with Spotify’s 26 million paid subscribers, the person said.

Quick Thoughts on Apple’s Announcements

Yesterday Apple unveiled a new Apple News+ service, a game service called Apple Arcade, a new credit card, and some information about their upcoming video service.

My first thoughts are that the News+ service looks really good, but it’s not something I’d want my publication to be a part of because our entire model is based on direct subscription from readers. The game service looks interesting, but without knowing the price it’s hard to really judge it. I find the credit card industry gross. If Apple was going to jump into this market I wish they would have disrupted it. It’s my view that extremely high interest rates on credit cards should be illegal. The video service looks like it’ll have multiple shows I’ll like, but that’s all a wait and see until it’s actually available.

Apple Updates AirPods

Apple has updated their AirPods:

Apple today announced new AirPods, the second generation of the world’s most popular wireless headphones. AirPods revolutionized the wireless audio experience with a breakthrough design and the new AirPods build on the magical experience customers love. The new Apple-designed H1 chip, developed specifically for headphones, delivers performance efficiencies, faster connect times, more talk time and the convenience of hands-free “Hey Siri.” AirPods come with either a standard charging case or a new Wireless Charging Case for convenient charging at home and on the go.

I use mine every single day and they’re one of my favorite purchases in a long time. Holding out to upgrade until the battery dies or they release them in black though.

Inside Garageband

Amy Wang, writing at Rolling Stone:

Patrick Stump was livid. On a lurching tour bus rigged with a wobbly Jenga tower of recording equipment, the singer and Fall Out Boy frontman had been trying to lay down demos for the band’s second album — it’d been hours, fiddling with rubber cords and finicky software — and nothing was working well together. Stump can still precisely recall the panic in the moment he finally finished the rough sketch of a song only to see the whole apparatus glitch and crash on his computer. “I just lost it, screaming in the back of a bus,” Stump tells Rolling Stone, a decade and a half later. “When you’re being creative, you just want to get your idea out. When you’re composing, time is everything, because you’re thinking the second guitar has to do this and the background vocals are going to do this and you just want to get it all out as quickly as possible. I thought: I’m not going to be able to do this.”

Madly clicking around on his laptop in search of a new route, Stump happened to open one of its pre-loaded programs. While he’d heard of Garageband, a piece of free software shipped with all Mac computers, he’d thought it was more toy than tool — and no one else was giving it much attention then, in the early 2000s. “But I opened it that first time and never looked back,” says Stump, who talks about the software with a particular fondness, as if remembering his meeting with an old friend. “I just started recording, without having to learn a new program, which was always one of the scariest things about music.”

I really enjoyed this article looking at the 15-year history of Garageband.

Spotify Files Complaint With European Commission Against Apple

Spotify has filed an anti-trust complaint with EU regulators against Apple:

Spotify is filing a complaint against Apple with the European Commission, accusing the latter company of anticompetitive behaviour in the way it manages its App Store, and thus gives its own Apple Music streaming service an advantage over rivals.

I found this thread on Twitter did a pretty good job summing up my thoughts:

We’re not debating anything that that has anything to do with what’s good in the long run for customers.

We’re fighting over who gets to have a larger monopoly on fucking artists.

I think Apple has long had anti-competitive behavior in the app store, specifically in regard to rent seeking, and Spotify has its own issues that I think are anti-artist.

Apple Music Commissions New Playlist Art

Apple Music is commissioning new custom playlist artwork:

The artwork is meant to “connect more directly with the communities and the culture for which they were intended,” says Rachel Newman, Apple’s global director of editorial. Before now, Apple’s playlists had a uniform presentation that didn’t necessarily speak to the music. “In many ways, it’s a visual representation of the music that you will find inside that playlist,” said Newman. That includes Hip Hop Hits, Dale Reggaetón, and The Riff, which are all immensely popular.

Apple Music Comes to the Amazon Echo

Apple Music is now available on the Amazon Echo:

To set up Apple Music on the Echo, open the Alexa iOS app and go to the Music section of the app’s Settings. You won’t see Apple Music listed as an existing service, so tap the ‘Link New Service’ button, which will list Apple Music along with several other services.

Once you’ve logged in with your Apple Music credentials, the Apple Music Skill is enabled, which allows you to say things like ‘Alexa, play my New Music Mix on Apple Music.’ You can separately set Apple Music as your default music service, which lets you use Alexa to request music without specifying ‘on Apple Music.’

I’ve been playing with it all weekend and it works great. It doesn’t (currently) have access to your entire iCloud Music Library, so things in your personal collection aren’t available, but the millions of songs on Apple Music are all available, as are your custom playlists.

Apple Music for Business (Restaurants, Bars, Stores, etc.)

Patently Apple:

There’s a common misunderstanding among business owners that songwriters are only compensated by the purchase of their CDs, so that a business owner can freely play copyrighted music for customers. Not so, and Apple’s new trademark filing for ‘Apple Music for Business’ indicates that Apple will be entering this new business avenue for Apple music in the future as the company seeks to expand their services businesses.

Interesting.

Apple Music Coming to Amazon Echo on December 17th

Amazon:

Apple Music subscribers will be able to enjoy Apple Music’s 50 million songs on Echo devices. Customers will be able to ask Alexa to play their favorite songs, artists, and albums — or any of the playlists made by Apple Music’s editors from around the world, covering many activities and moods. […] Simply enable the Apple Music skill in the Alexa app and link your account to start listening.

I’m more excited about this than I thought I’d be.

Home Screen Icon Creator

MacStories:

I’ve always been intrigued by Workflow’s implementation of ‘Add to Home Screen’ – a feature that Apple kept in the transition to the Shortcuts app, and which allows users to create home screen icons to launch their favorite shortcuts. So earlier this month, I decided I wanted to learn how Shortcuts was handling the creation of home screen icons.

After a few weeks of experiments and refinements, I ended up reverse-engineering Shortcuts’ ‘Add to Home Screen’ implementation, which turns out to be an evolution of Workflow’s existing hack based on Safari and web clips.

Federico Viticci and I must have been playing around with this stuff at the same time. His implementation and solution is way better.

Apple Event Roundup

The Verge has a pretty good roundup of the Apple announcements today:

After a busy fall announcement season, Apple has unveiled what’s expected to be the last of its hardware refreshes this year with the introduction of a new iPad Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini. All new devices are available for preorder today with a ship date of November 7th. Here’s a look at them all.

That new iPad sure looks great.

Creating a Simple App Launcher With a Custom Icon for iOS

In iOS 10 Apple introduced the ability for app makers to offer alternative app icons for their apps. A few of my favorite apps have taken advantage of this. Overcast has a cool dark icon for subscribers, Carrot Weather has a huge selection to choose from, and the MLB At Bat app lets you pick your favorite team’s logo as the icon. It’s a nice way to add a little bit of customization to your device. However, not every app has taken advantage of this new feature. For example, it’s a no brainer that the NBA should copy baseball and let you put a team logo as the app icon … but, they don’t. So when it came time to move from having the MLB app on my home screen, to the NBA, I started looking into all the different ways I could maybe change-up the icon. I have no desire to jailbreak my phone and this really isn’t an app I open up all that often anyway. I check it maybe a couple times a day, at most, to see what games are on, check scores, and watch one via League Pass if it’s coming down to the wire. Because of this, I thought about just using a Siri Shortcut to act as an app launcher and being done with it, but I didn’t love how the shortcut would launch, then switch to the Shortcut app, and then launch the NBA app. Sure, it worked, but it took longer than I wanted to even for an app I only open a few times a day.

However, I realized that if there was only one slight pause and a redirect to the NBA app, without first going through Shortcuts, that would probably work just fine for what I wanted this to do. So I took a look at how Shortcuts was creating these launchers and realized they’re basically just Web Clips that when opened redirect to a Shortcuts URL scheme. Looking a little closer I saw they created these Web Clips in a pretty clever way that kept everything local on the device. Usually a Web Clip will launch Safari and hit a web site, which is slow, however, if it’s a local HTML file it doesn’t need to do anything at all. So I copied their technique.

I created a basic HTML file that redirects to the NBA url scheme, created the icon I wanted for it, turned the background black, and then added a startup image that displays the logo on a black background. That way, when I tap the icon, instead of just getting a brief white background, I get a cool all black Trail Blazer screen before being sent to the NBA app. There’s still a slight delay, but it’s passable this time, since I’m sent right to the app and not to Shortcuts first.

And it means I can have the Blazer logo on my home screen:

If anyone is interested in how I did it. Here’s the basics: I started with a simple HTML document.

<html>
<head>
<title>NBA</title>
<meta http-equiv=”Content-Type” content=”text/html; charset=UTF-8″>
<meta name=”viewport” content=”width=device-width, initial-scale=1.0, maximum-scale=1.0, user-scalable=no, viewport-fit=cover” />
<meta name=”apple-mobile-web-app-capable” content=”yes”>
<meta name=”apple-mobile-web-app-status-bar-style” content=”black”>
<meta http-equiv=”refresh” content=”0;URL=’nba://'” />
<link rel=”apple-touch-icon” href=””>
<link rel=”apple-touch-startup-image” href=””>
</head>
<body style=”background: #000;text-align: center;”>
<img src=”data:image/png;base64,” width=”175″ style=”position:fixed;top:47%;left:49.2%;transform: translate(-50%, -50%);”/>
</body>
</html>

The meta refresh tag I set to the NBA URL scheme. I told the Web Clip to be full-screen (apple-mobile-web-app-capable). Set the status bar to black to match the background (apple-mobile-web-app-status-bar-style). (Change “black” to “default” to make it white.) And set the icon (apple-touch-icon) and the start up image (apple-touch-startup-image) to their respective images (you can find the recommended sizes via Google depending on what device you use).

Now, in the middle of the screen I wanted to show the Blazer logo. However, I didn’t want this image to be hosted on a server somewhere and slow down my little launcher. So, I recommend optimizing your image as much as possible and then converting it to Base 64. Grab that code and set it as the source for the image. I tweaked the size and positioning so that on load the start-up image and my little website thing would look the exact same.

After that I borrowed how Siri Shortcuts adds home screen apps. Convert the entire HTML page to Base 64. You’ll get a giant string representing your Web Clip. Mobile Safari won’t let you just copy and paste this into your browser, so you’ll need to link it from somewhere. I created a page that just had one link on it:

<a href=”data:text/html;base64,”>click me</a>

After the comma, I put the giant base 64 string. I tossed that on my server, opened it on my phone, and clicked it.

(I’m sure you can use something like this to do that too.)

It opened up the HTML page I created and asked if I wanted to be redirected to the NBA app. I clicked cancel, then just created the home screen app like usual (share sheet, add to home screen). I tapped the icon, it showed my startup screen, and then the NBA app opened up. Exactly like any of the Siri Shortcut apps and all without having to jailbreak my device or create a custom profile on the phone. Just a basic local HTML page turned into a web clip. I’d never do this for any app I open all the time, but this use case is just about perfect.

I share other things like this in the Apple thread from time to time.

Oh. And go Blazers.

Genius Teams Up With Apple Music

Genius will be providing lyrics to Apple Music:

Genius has the world’s best lyrics database and now it’s available on Apple Music. Genius will provide lyrics to thousands of hit songs on the service—bringing world-class accuracy and timeliness powered by Genius’s global community of artists and fans.

MacStories iOS 12 Review

Federico Viticci, has written the definitive iOS 12 review at MacStories:

After years of unabated visual and functional changes, iOS 12 is Apple’s opportunity to regroup and reassess the foundation before the next big step – with one notable exception.

There’s seventeen pages here, but it’s the most in-depth and informative review on the OS by a large margin.

Apple Music Launches “Friends Mix”

Apple Music has launched a new “Friends Mix” that will give you a list of 25 songs each week based on the listening habits of people you follow on the service. You can find this in the “For You” section of Apple Music. My “Friends Mix” looks basically exactly like you’d expect.

If you want my spins showing up in your mix, feel free to follow me here. It’s been a lot of punk music lately.