The Calm-Critters Edition Thursday, December 7, 2017

Apple Announces App Of The Year, Game Of The Year And Best Of 2017 Top Charts, by Benjamin Mayo, 9to5Mac

Apple has announced its Best of 2017 apps and games, this year utilizing the Today cards in the iOS 11 App Store to feature the winners. Apple says its app of the year for iPhone is Calm, a meditation and sleep app, and Splitter Critters is 2017’s iPhone game of the year. Apple says the title ‘radiates imagination and originality’.

For iPad, Apple has chosen Affinity Photo, the desktop-class photo editor, and the game Hidden Folks.

Understanding People

Learning With Privacy At Scale, by Apple

Understanding how people use their devices often helps in improving the user experience. However, accessing the data that provides such insights — for example, what users type on their keyboards and the websites they visit — can compromise user privacy. We develop a system architecture that enables learning at scale by leveraging local differential privacy, combined with existing privacy best practices. We design efficient and scalable local differentially private algorithms and provide rigorous analyses to demonstrate the tradeoffs among utility, privacy, server computation, and device bandwidth. Understanding the balance among these factors leads us to a successful practical deployment using local differential privacy. This deployment scales to hundreds of millions of users across a variety of use cases, such as identifying popular emojis, popular health data types, and media playback preferences in Safari.

Mental Health Apps Made Me Feel More Overwhelmed Than Ever, by Samantha Cole, Motherboard

The apps didn’t help me cope during or after this exceptional edge-case scenario. No one designs digital diaries with mass shootings in mind, and I wouldn’t expect them to. But most self-help and therapy apps still require a lot of personal accountability on the user’s part—a burden I’m not sure someone seeking a hand out of the confusion should be expected to bear.

For my own mental well-being, at least, I can’t wait to delete all of these apps. And maybe find a real-life therapist to talk to all of this about.


Apple Has Ruined Its Podcasts App, by Mike Pesca, Slate

Of my four basic requirements, three suffered. The list of the shows I listened to was now incomplete. There was no longer a number denoting how many episodes of each show I had on the app. The list of unplayed episodes had melded into the list of played episodes.


The playback got glitchier, and some programs streamed really poorly. I couldn’t tell you why: I’m paid to think about what goes into a microphone, not diagnose what is, or isn’t, coming out of an earbud. But it was unmistakable: The Apple app could no longer consistently fire on demand.

Understanding Apple

iPhone X And The Critics’ Festival Of Wrong, by Ken Segall

Just as Apple exists in a competitive world, so do its critics. In the Apple opinion business, it pays to be an early responder, and there’s rarely a downside to sticking one’s neck out. Retractions are rare and life goes on.

So the best advice is — enjoy! This show has been playing for more than 20 years, and it won’t be closing anytime soon. Think of it as “fake news for the rest of us.”

Backstage Action

Apple Rebrands iTunes Movies With New @AppleTV Account On Twitter, by Zac Hall, 9to5Mac

Following the launch of Amazon Prime Video on Apple TV, Apple has increased its Twitter presence with a new account dedicated to all things Apple TV. The shift sees the old @iTunesMovies account rebrand with a new @AppleTV handle.

Apple Hires Michelle Lee As Creative Executive In Worldwide Video Division, by Nellie Andreeva, Deadline

Michelle Lee, who has served as head of development for Jason Katims’ True Jack Prods. for the past 5 years, is leaving the Universal TV-based pod to join Apple’s Worldwide Video unit as a senior creative executive.


Apple Updates macOS High Sierra To 10.13.2 With Security And Stability Improvements, More, by Zac Hall, 9to5Mac

Apple has released the latest version of macOS High Sierra through the Mac App Store. macOS 10.13.2 “improves the stability, compatibility and security” of Macs, and specifically includes improvements to third party USB audio devices, VoiceOver and Preview, and Braille displays and Mail.

Apple Store App Updates Lets iPhone Buyers Bypass Carrier Preauthorization, by AppleInsider

The biggest change, at least for iPhone buyers, is the option to bypass Apple's carrier preauthorization check when purchasing an AT&T, Verizon or Sprint handset at full price. Those who elect to skip authorization can activate the phone on their carrier's network when they receive it, speeding up the checkout process.

I Am Blown Away By The Battery Life In The New iPhone X, by Dave Smith, Business Insider

This phone is a workhorse, but between the OLED screen that saves some battery life, and its hyper-intelligent A11 Bionic chip that knows when to save energy, battery life simply has never been a problem.

Apple Releases iTunes 12.7.2 With Bug Fixes & Performance Improvements, by Chance Miller, 9to5Mac

The update doesn’t bring any notable new features, but Apple says it should include app and performance improvements.

Newton Mail Now Has A Standalone Calendar Companion App And It's Lovely, by Lory Gil, iMore

The idea here is that the development team at Newton wanted to make a calendar app that is user-friendly, easy to access, and doesn't interrupt any emailing activities you've c>urrently got going on.

So, instead of folding it into the Newton Mail app, the developers decided to create a stand-alone calendar that works with the email app so you've got more customization and all you have to do is switch between apps, almost like switching from one tab to another (thank you iOS design).

ProtonMail Encrypted Mail Service Adds Support For Apple Mail, Outlook And Thunderbird, by Taylor Hatmaker, TechCrunch

ProtonMail, built around the encryption standard known as PGP (Pretty Good Privacy), previously required users to use its own apps or webmail service. Now, users loyal to common mail clients Apple Mail, Thunderbird, Outlook or anything else that supports IMAP and SMTP can run ProtonMail Bridge in the background to enable a ProtonMail account to play nice with one of those newly supported clients.

RememBear Is A Good Password Manager For Beginners, by Nick Douglas, Lifehacker

You know by now that you absolutely need a password manager. But you never get around to buying one. Let’s fix that right now with RememBear, a new password manager that’s easy to install and figure out. We tested it, and while we still prefer 1Password for most users, we recommend RememBear for beginners, especially during its free beta period.


Apple Faces Criticism Over Change To App Store Rules, by Tim Bradshaw, Financial Times

US Congressman Ted Lieu has written to Apple to complain about a recent change in App Store rules which prohibits apps from being developed using ready-made templates.

Although spammers and fraudsters have turned to templates to make it quicker and easier to launch apps, the technique is also employed by smaller shops and restaurants, as well as community organisations such as sports clubs, schools and churches, who cannot afford to develop an app from scratch.

Bottom of the Page

I am not holding out hopes that apps on the phone will be able to cure mental illness. What I am holding out hope is that apps, together with real human beings on both ends, will be able to help in curing mental illness.


The last time I was using Apple’s Podcast app on iOS, it was still known as the iPod app (I thinK), I was syncing audios over via ITunes and USB cable, and I was using my own Applescripts to create and maintain a playlist of podcast episodes.


Thanks for reading.