Podcast Transcript: Mosen at Large episode 182, Recapping the WWDC Keynote from a blindness perspective
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Jonathan Mosen: I’m Jonathan Mosen, this is Mosen At Large, the show that’s got the blind community talking. On this special Apple’s WWDC keynote for 2022 has revealed major operating system updates and more. Our expert panel provides analysis of the WWDC keynote from a blindness perspective.
Jonathan: Our panel today are Heidi Taylor right here in the studio with me. Welcome to you, Heidi.
Heidi Taylor: Hello.
Jonathan: We’ve got across town Anthony Horvath. Welcome to you Anthony in Wellington, New Zealand.
Anthony Horvath: Hello.
Jonathan: Some distance away, by comparison, is Mike Feir who’s the author of course of the iOS Personal Power now onto its second edition and he’s in Sunny, Canada. Welcome to you, Michael.
Michael Feir: Hello?
Jonathan: Yes. Tremendous.
Michael: Welcome to the–
Jonathan: One hour and 45 minutes of presentation with very little fluff. In fact, it felt like the pace was pretty rapid for most of that time. Before we go into the nitty-gritty, and we will go through the keynote and the order in which things were announced, can I just go around the virtual table and find out what people thought of it. Or the overall gut reaction without getting too deep into the weeds, just this overall feeling about the keynote now that it’s just over as we record this. Heidi, what’s your overall impression of it?
Heidi: It was a good one this year. Lots of good stuff.
Jonathan: Yes. Substance.
Jonathan: Not just looking at the way it all feels and looks and things, but actual new features. All right. What about you, Mike?
Michael: Well, yes, I would agree. There’s certainly substance there, but I’m a bit less on average– all of this stuff is visual, at least a lot of it. It really seemed to focus on appearance and I’m wondering other than the multitasking stuff, I didn’t see a ton that’s really going to change our experience as blind people.
Jonathan: Interesting. All right. We’ll come back to that as we work through the features. What’s your overall impression, Anthony?
Anthony: Lots of brain food, lots to digest.
Jonathan: I’ve been drinking the green drink at Apple this year.
Jonathan: It inspired me to have a green drink as well as a coffee while it was all on. One thing that impressed me about it was that even the audio-described version of the stream was in Dolby Atmos this time.
Anthony: Oh, wow.
Jonathan: Yes. That’s pretty impressive. Tim Cook began the keynote by talking about the developer academy which provides assistance to underrepresented people to become developers. He didn’t mention it, I don’t know whether there was anything in the picks Heidi, but I do hope disabled people are a part of that program. I would like to see a lot more disabled people developing, blind people in charge of voiceover, that’d be a tremendous thing.
Heidi: There weren’t disabled people featured in the pictures.
Jonathan: Well, let’s hope that that’s something that Apple is either doing now or will think about. Let’s look at iOS 16 then and start with the lock screen. For those who didn’t hear the keynote, there is an all-new lock screen with iOS 16. This is what happens when you push the button or you tap the screen whatever you do to power on your phone. This is the first experience you get before you go to your home screen a lot of personalization features are in there.
I guess this comes back to what you were saying Mike, that initially when they started on this there was a lot of focus on the look and feel the way that the lock screen is going to visually look.
Michael: It sounds like it does incorporate information. It’s not just fancy pictures so it’s pulling in stuff presumably more constantly to keep all this information up to date on various widgets. I’m wondering about whether that’s going to increase the data consumption any of these things.
Jonathan: Well, I think it’s more about where they live because right now you can swipe to the right when you unlock your phone and get that whole page of widgets. What they’re allowing you to do now is to promote the widgets to the lock screen which I think is really good. The first thing that I would do we have a local app here for our met service in New Zealand. I would definitely put that little met service widget. Anthony, I don’t know whether you use this or Heidi.
I would put that on my lock screen right there so I have the temperature and the current weather conditions based on my location in New Zealand.
Anthony: That’s exactly what I was thinking of doing as well.
Heidi: I’m going to have to burst your bubble. It’s not like that. It’s not the same as the widgets that are in the– whatever that little view you can swipe over to is. They’re different. It’s much more like complications on an Apple Watch. It’s like micro widgets.
Jonathan: Even then you would be able to have an app like met service that put the temperature in the current weather conditions there in a little widget.
Heidi: I assume so. Do they have an Apple Watch complication?
Jonathan: They don’t. No. You would think that they would come out with an iOS 16-friendly widget. You are saying that– but hang on though Heidi, because in that main widget screen that we are talking about when you flip to the ride or if you add a widget to your home screen right now you can choose three different sizes of widgets?
Heidi No. it’s not like that at all.
Jonathan: All right then.
Jonathan: What’s it like?
Heidi: What you are talking about with the widgets it’s essentially like squares or rectangles that take over the space of the app icons. The small widget is four icons in a square so two by two and then they get bigger as you go on. These are like the size of a single icon.
Jonathan: Are you sure you are talking about widgets and you’re not talking about this other feature that they talked about where you can get sports score. These are called live activities and they make it easy to keep up with what’s happening in real-time, sports scores, that sort of thing.
Heidi: Live activities look like widgets, widgets look like complications.
Jonathan: All right then it’s going to break up right. Where’s my green drink?
Heidi: You already had it.
Anthony: It hasn’t worked.
Jonathan: No matter what they look like, I think the key point is that you will be able to get some information from apps right on your lock screen beyond your traditional notifications that will be pushed.
Heidi: Yes. That’s right.
Michael: That could actually be helpful. As long as you’re comfortable memorizing where these things appear on the screen, rather than flicking between everything. That could really be useful. You could just tap on a given spot and expect and get, say, weather, or next events, if presumably, reminders will have something that ties into this.
Jonathan: We are recording this at the immediate conclusion of the keynote. Nobody has installed iOS 16 developer beta yet when we record this. It sounds like what you’ll be able to do is go into an edit mode on the lock screen. I imagine that you’ll either double-tap and hold, or there’ll be a way to use the actions rotor to get into the editor and you’ll be able to customize this lock screen in various ways.
Heidi: Again, that’s very reminiscent of customizing an Apple Watch face on the Apple Watch so it’s a similar-looking interface.
Jonathan: I’m quite relieved really that it sounds like the changes to notifications are fairly minimal this year. They are just focusing on this live activities thing on the lock screen. I guess that makes sense there. For example, I have a couple of apps that give me cricket updates. While I do sometimes want to scroll through the history to see exactly how wickets were lost and that sort of thing, what I really want right now is just to open my lock screen and find out, say, how the New Zealand cricket team is doing.
Anthony: Now, I might be confused. Was that part of the whole sport and news thing combined? They talked about that and they mentioned the news app and all in that one little segment.
Jonathan: Yes. There’s a separate thing. Sports is obviously, there are some features there where you can subscribe to your favorite sports teams in the news app. That of course is not available everywhere.
Anthony: It’s not available in New Zealand, for example.
Jonathan: It’s not available in New Zealand, for example, but live activities are available anywhere and they can be used for a range of things. Another example they gave of live activities is the Uber app, for example, where your status on the trip will change. It might be for example, that Uber produces a live activity that you add to your lock screen. That will tell you just by looking at the lock screen on your phone, say, what the current estimate is about when you’ll get to your destination, for instance.
Heidi: They used Uber for the example they pictured-
Jonathan: How cool?
Heidi: -and the little Uber thing. It says one minute until pick up, it gives, the car was a Silver Honda Civic. It gave you the number plate and a little progress indicator as to approximately how far along the journey you’re going to be.
Jonathan: That’s really good. Now here’s my next question for this very learned panel. How many people are into the focus system that was introduced to iOS 15 last year?
Jonathan: I was really pleased to hear at the keynote that the lock screens are going to be potentially linked to focuses or foci, If you want them to be. You can match your lock screen to the focus. You can set up, say a work focus and a home focus and various other focuses/foci and set the lock screen based on the focus that’s on. That means for example, that you could have a completely different lock screen when you’re at work from when you’re at home. Because those focus changes can happen based on location, it can all just go on behind the scenes and your lock screen will magically change based on where you are.
Michael: Presumably with the time as well, those can be triggered to turn it on and off. You can just have your whole phone because that also happens with, you can limit what home screens are available. You can limit all kinds of different things depending on what focus. That really integrates nicely with the rest of what you can do with focuses. I quite like that.
Heidi: I have a quick question about focus, which I guess isn’t totally relevant here. Is focus like a whitelist system or a blacklist system because I haven’t actually used it?
Jonathan: It is predominantly a whitelist system, I think it’s fair to say. I think it can be both. That’s a very fair question. I think it can be both.
Michael: Yes, because you can do either. You can add in or subtract things from a focus, but it’s mostly about blocking distractions. It’s mostly what you don’t want to have access to or to see at a given time.
Heidi: If I was in my work focus, I could be like, I don’t get work e-mails but I get everything else. If I’m in my work focus, I only get work e-mails and all other e-mails are blocked. Can you do that?
Jonathan: Yes you can.
Michael: Yes, you can.
Heidi: Fancy, maybe I should start using it.
Jonathan: Oh yes. The focus system’s pretty powerful and you can do things like select all apps or select no apps and then just go through manually select the ones you want. Various things like it’s really good. You can also set it up on an app-by-app basis. What I do for example is when I go into the Kindle or the Voice Dream app or the Apple Books app, I have a very minimum number of notifications that get through. I get phone calls through an iMessage and maybe one or two apps.
Other than that, all my notifications are silent while I’m in there and you could do that if you’re watching a movie or anything like that.
Anthony: I had that set up if I’m on Netflix or Disney Plus.
Jonathan: What’s also cool about focus this year in iOS 16 is that they are now taking filters right into the apps. For example, if you had a work focus and you wanted to make sure that you couldn’t go to facebook.com or twitter.com or something in Safari, then you can do that now. That’s pretty exciting.
Heidi: It can also like hide mail within the mail app. Even though you only notified currently by say, work, when you open it you can’t even see e-mails from outside of work.
Jonathan: Super cool. The messages app is getting some change as well. You can edit any message that you just sent and you can also undo the sending of a message immediately, which is nice. you can also mark a thread as unread so you can come back to it later and as far as somebody who’s concerned, who’s looking to see whether the message was read or not. You haven’t read it yet. Was there any indication in the visuals, Heidi, about how long you have before you can withdraw a message or stop editing a message?
Heidi: It didn’t give a timeframe.
Jonathan: Right, because I’m curious about whether there’s some limit about that.
Michael: Of course, what about voiceover? If you send something and then go, “Oh crap,” and want to change it, it might have already read out loud to the person who has gotten the notification of the message.
Jonathan: I guess that’s true with anybody, isn’t it because they could look at [crosstalk] prety quick.
Michael: I wonder if they see the message disappear [crosstalk].
Anthony: [crosstalk] middle of reading it and then they see it change so it’s–
Michael: See the frantic efforts to undo the damage without ongoing.
Jonathan: Maybe it’s dependent on the red indicator that if the thing comes up as red then you can’t edit or delete it. We’ll have to see how that works.
Anthony: We’ll have to test that.
Jonathan: What about Shared With You? Does anybody use Shared With You?
Michael: No, I’ve never used it yet.
Anthony: I’ve used it a handful of times, but not as much as I thought I would.
Jonathan: Was that because no one shares with you.
Anthony: Pretty much. It’s very sad, isn’t it? Very, very sad.
Heidi: I use the feature that comes up in Safari that shows me all the links people have sent me, but that’s the extent of how I use it.
Jonathan: I forgot about Shared With You until a couple of weeks ago and it came up for me for some reason and I thought, “This is actually quite good I’d forgotten this existed.” They’re now building on this Shared With You thing that they’re doubling down. There’s a new API for developers and that means that other apps will also be able to leverage the Shared With You features. The Shared With you list of links and items and things is likely to become bigger as other apps leverage this.
What about SharePlay in this podcast a year ago, we were pretty excited about SharePlay, but I think those of us who were on the panel at the time observed that maybe it had come a little bit too late. That if Apple had managed to get SharePlay to us right at the height of the pandemic when a lot of people were locked down, it would’ve been a bigger hit than it was. How’s SharePlay gone for everybody once it was introduced to iOS?
Michael: I just haven’t had any occasions to really use it. If Sara and I want to listen to something, we’ll do it on one device and we’ll just use HomePod mini or something or share between AirPods, which we could do anyway. I haven’t really found a ton of use for it yet.
Anthony: I’ve used it a couple of times, but again it’s not something that I’ve used regularly when I have. It’s usually when I’ve been talking to a couple of friends in Auckland. It is quite useful.
Jonathan: We did a fun demo with Heidi.
Heidi: That is the only time I’ve ever used it.
Jonathan: For those who didn’t hear that in Mosen At Large, we found this piano app and we were able to play the piano together via SharePlay and Heidi was at her house and I was here in the studio and we were able to play a duet on the piano, but we don’t use it all. Like you Mike, when Bonnie and I want to listen to something, we just listen to something on the Sonos or something. I did note and it tugged at my heartstrings. I did note they made a reference to bedtime stories and so I thought to myself, when my grandchild soon to be arriving, coming soon.
When my grandchild gets old enough to have a device, that’d be quite cool to do bedtime stories together.
Anthony: That would be really cool.
Heidi: You can gift them their own iPhone when they’re born?
Jonathan: Oh, have to see what his parents or her parents have to say about that.
Michael: It brings to mind all these scenarios where you really have people absent, who don’t want to be. I really have been able to keep track and in touch with most people that I would want to share, say a movie with. I don’t really do that with close friends as much or anything like that. It would take circumstances where you really have that need for connection. Like I don’t know an absent father away on a business trip wanting to read a bedtime story to kids, things like that. I imagine it’d be very useful for.
Jonathan: Perhaps that’s what Apple is banking on. That there was a bit of a lull maybe they did miss the big lockdown boom. Then there’s been a bit of a lull where people have started going back to offices, but there hasn’t been as much travel as there might have been in the past. Now people are starting to travel again in larger numbers. It’s a very good point you make Mike, because perhaps what’s going to happen is that as people do start to travel and find themselves in hotel rooms a bit more often, they can connect and watch a movie with their significant other at home or something like that.
All right. You can find SharePlay compatible apps from within FaceTime calls now. They’re obviously trying to make it easier for you to discover how this works and what apps you can use it with. Also, SharePlay now works with messages and not just FaceTime. Now, one thing that will be of real interest to many of our listeners is the updates that Apple are bringing to iOS 16 and presumably iPad. We saw that they didn’t expressly say to the dictation experience because we have a lot of people who use dictation.
Sometimes with great mirth resulting, I have to say. I noticed they didn’t necessarily say that the dictation’s going to be any more accurate than it was. What’s this look like Heidi, because this feature’s used, they said 18 billion times every month. What does it look like now that’s different visually?
Heidi: What it is currently before this release was when you enabled dictation from say the keyboard, the keyboard would disappear, and you couldn’t interact with it at all. What they’ve changed is that the keyboard is still visible, so you can type and dictate at the same time if you want to. Say you are dictating something, and you know you need to put in a word that never is right. Say it’s someone’s name maybe, you can type it in and then continue dictating without having to stop the flow is essentially what they’re trying to do.
Jonathan: What I’m interested in is will they have the ability to give command similar to what they already actually do have in voice control. Where you can say select whatever the words are, and correct it or type? Or whether this is mostly just making that keyboard visible, whether that’s really what it amounts to?
Michael: Sounds like the latter, they didn’t talk about any kind of advanced control.
Jonathan: Well, they did talk about automatic punctuation insertion though. They are obviously going under the hood to change dictation to some degree because now apparently you don’t need comma. Well, what’s really [laughs] hilarious. Oh, you’ve done this Anthony.
Anthony: I have.
Jonathan: You’ve sent me messages via voice where you say the punctuation marks, because you’ve forgotten that you were recording-
Anthony: I didn’t even realize I was doing it.
Jonathan: -you forgot you were recording a voice message.
Anthony: I did, man, seriously.
Jonathan: Now, if this is working correctly, then you won’t need to dictate your punctuation. That’s an option. It’ll be interesting to see how that goes.
Michael: Yes. That’s using artificial intelligence to basically learn your pauses learn how you speak, presumably, hopefully, and insert them in the right places. That will be neat to see how it improves over time as you use it more,
Jonathan: I guess. But I think it’s a feature I’m hoping I can turn off because certainly with Dragon I’ve used this and you stop to think you. When you’re dictating you don’t necessarily speak fluently. You stop to think about exactly what word you want and Dragon will interpret that as a full stop or something.
Michael: Oh yes. [chuckles]
Heidi: No. They just brushed past it and there wasn’t really much detail.
Jonathan: Okay. LiveText was next and live texts were introduced, I’m pretty sure it was last year. This is a very powerful feature I think for blind people because it would extract the text that is all around you really in photos and images. You can point check your camera at something and it will extract the LiveText and that works with video as well. That could be very handy.
Michael: You could stop a video mid-movie and get the text printed off of the screen. Even if you didn’t have voiceover, presumably you could still capture that.
Michael: I guess you’d need voiceover for it to speak out loud. Wow. Let’s see if you could get at all those little silent printed bits in movies I’m thinking like Hunt for Red October. I’m not sure if all of that is subtitles. There is probably printing in video frames that we don’t get read out loud.
Jonathan: Or you could be watching the latest infomercial for this exercise gadget [crosstalk]-
Anthony: Call the number on your screen.
Jonathan: -and the infomercial say– Yes, exactly. Phone the number on your screen now. You’ll be able to know what the number is.
Heidi: Yes. Wait, people still watch infomercials.
Jonathan: Yes. What’s not to like.
Anthony: For only 999.
Jonathan: Have you Mike and Anthony have you used LiveText very much? Has it proven to live up to all the hype?
Michael: For me I just use, the regular apps. I already have Seeing AI. I have Voice Dream Scanner. I haven’t really had any occasion where I’ve thought, “I really need another tool,” that I don’t have and maybe LiveText. I can’t think of a situation where I would rather use LiveText than these specialty apps. [crosstalk] Now coming at it from a beginner point of view though, I like it. I shudder to think I’ll have to do another version of this guide anytime soon, but if I do, that addition could be very helpful to beginners who haven’t yet gotten to the app store
They could still take advantage of some of these things and get read print on boxes, maybe identify things. There’s a lot you can do with that.
Jonathan: What are your thoughts, Anthony?
Anthony: I played around with it when it first came out, but I think Mike’s really hit on a good point because I already have apps in my system, the Voice Scanner and Seeing AI, I just used those. If you don’t have any of those apps yet, I think it’d be very useful. Having said that, I’d be interested to see what changes when we start testing.
Jonathan: We’re obviously really interested in hearing what listeners think of all that was announced. If you are using LiveText as opposed to other apps, then it would be good to hear the use case for that. I agree with you, I tend to still have Seeing AI right there on page one of my home screen. I was battling my television the other day over an annoying little thing, and I got Seeing AI out. I just ran that I pointed at the screen and was able to read what was on the screen. To be honest, it just doesn’t occur to me to use LiveText.
Perhaps that’s because these apps were around before LiveText was for newer iPhone users. Perhaps it will be the reverse that if people become used to using the LiveText feature, if it’s reliable enough, then they won’t feel the compulsion to install a third-party app.
Anthony: Which makes you wonder if this continues whether third-party apps like that have a future in some respect.
Jonathan: There is a LiveText API, I think. It will be interesting to see whether any of the apps feel when you need to integrate with it. Should we talk about Wallet? It can present your ID now securely to apps that require verification of identity. I guess that could be health, or say a gambling app that needs to know you’re over a certain age or maybe purchasing mineral water or whatever it might be. You can also share your keys with people via messages. If you are deeply embedded in that smart home ecosystem, share your key, just message them a key.
That’s great. Message the key to the cleaner.
Michael: That’s neat. I like the thought of the sharing only the parts of your identity that are necessary to what is required. I like that idea in the sense that it really it makes sense with their push for privacy. That’s what they’re really banking on that now fully in on this whole idea of user privacy. I can see why they’ve done that. It’ll be interesting to see how quickly apps really take advantage of that.
Jonathan: Yes, the privacy thing is just so integral to Apple’s brand these days, so that’s very consistent. It is good to see though that Apple is supporting open standards for cross-platform support because it does get frustrating. These days WhatsApp has so much cut through, for example, just going back to messages. Whether you use iMessage or Android, anybody can install WhatsApp, but with iPhone, you’ve either got the rich experience of iMessage, or the very dated experience of SMS, because Apple is not supporting the newest standard that Google is trying to push and that carriers are trying to embrace.
With messages, you’ve either got something very brilliant or something 1990s-like, that’s why WhatsApp is doing so well. I really don’t know why iMessage hasn’t come to Android yet. It just seems like such a smart thing for Apple to do, but they continue to resist that. Tap to Pay on iPhone, and this will be good for small business owners and at the moment, I believe it’s only available in the US. I immediately thought for example of the vendor program, the Randolph Sheppard program in the US, and thought Tap to Pay could be a really good experience for a number of blind small business owners.
Michael: Yes, it removes the need to buy any specialized point of sale or terminal. You can just take out your iPhone and any customer that has iPhones and I don’t know if they’ll extend this to other things. It sounded to me like they were making this possibly cross-platform. They’ve done that with a lot of different things in this release, Matter being the big one, I guess.
Jonathan: Yes, we’ll come back to Matter because it does matter, but I had to get them in there somewhere. What I’m not clear about or maybe the visuals again, Heidi told us this, my impression was that Tap to Pay would work with any NFC-capable device, and that would include the little chips that you find in credit cards and ATM cards these days. Is that true?
Heidi: Yes. The examples they showed was iPhone to iPhone, but then also like a payWave style card onto the iPhone. They didn’t show on Android device but I don’t know if that means it doesn’t work, maybe they just didn’t want to show it.
Jonathan: If you’ve got a card, would be a credit or a card associated with your bank account that has one of those little chips in it, we call this technology payWave in New Zealand, but I don’t know whether that’s a New Zealand’s term only. Then you should be able to take advantage of this Tap to Pay feature and that makes it quite attractive for small business owners. You can also pay later, Apple Pay Later. This is the one reaction I do recall getting from Bonnie who was sort of dipping in and out of the keynote this morning.
When they talked about being able to split the payments on your new espresso machine, this interested Bonnie considerably. This lets you pay up to four payments over a six-week period. In typical seamless Apple style, you can see in your Wallet, what is due and when. You can also track directly in-Wallet purchases made with Apple Pay assuming that the vendor supports that. That’s all pretty nice. It just goes to show how much emphasis Apple is placing on services these days. This is the big future for Apple.
The hardware, the software, it’s all quite incremental, but the services that’s where the revenue’s coming from. Shall we talk about Apple Maps? Who’s an Apple Maps user around this table. No, nobody?
Anthony: Yes, I do for work only.
Jonathan: Why did you choose it over Google Maps?
Anthony: I tested both of them for a while, but I found, and it’s probably improved since, but I found that Google would just say turn left at the next street, turn left turn right. For whatever reason, it didn’t say the street name, whereas Apple Maps did. That’s why at the time I stuck with that.
Jonathan: Everybody else on Google Maps?
Jonathan: Why is that? Oh, go ahead, Mike.
Michael: I do use maps just through Siri, right, if I want directions to somewhere because it’s one less thing to open and do. I typically would use it to just generate those route directions and then I’d have an app like BlindSquare to point out landmarks and things kind of use it in conjunction.
Jonathan: When we talk about who’s using Apple Maps, there are different Apple Maps experiences depending on where in the world you are. It was interesting to hear that that is going to be extended. The new Apple Maps experience is coming to more countries including New Zealand.
Anthony: Including New Zealand.
Heidi: Yes. The new countries are Belgium, France, Israel. Oh God, Liechtenstein.
Heidi: Yes, Luxemburg Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Palestinian Territories, Saudi Arabia, and Switzerland.
Jonathan: What’s different about the new experience? Did they contrast the old with the new?
Michael: It’s more information like they give you more in terms of transit, in terms of information about topography in a place, cityscapes like the images are more detailed. A lot of things like that.
Jonathan: You’ll have it in Ottawa, right?
Michael: In Canada, yes we have. I think it’s Canada-wide as far as I know. There’s quite a bit more now than there was initially in the maps.
Jonathan: Yes, because they seem to be supporting specific cities with even richer experiences and you have to be in specific cities to really benefit from it all.
Michael: I haven’t really done anything major with that. I’ve occasionally gotten a bit of information on transit and noticed that change a bit. I haven’t noticed all this other, like the land information things like that more.
Jonathan: You can now plan up to 15 stops in advance when you’re on a route, you must be super organized to be able to do that.
Jonathan: You can use Siri to add additional stops to your route as well and it’s now easier to see public transportation fairs. They call them transit in the United States, and to add public transport cards to wallets. That’s good because here in New Zealand, in Wellington, we’ve got the Snapper cards, and that works already with iPhone. Doesn’t it?
Heidi: What do you mean?
Jonathan: Do you not use the NFC capability on your iPhone effectively as your Snapper card?
Heidi: I don’t think so, but you can use your iPhone to top up your Snapper card.
Jonathan: On some Android devices, you can. I think that reflects the openness of the NFC chip on Android devices that effectively your phone becomes your Snapper card. Snapper is a smart car technology that we use here for public transport. Perhaps that’s what Snapper and other providers like them will be able to do in the future then is actually use the NFC chip and add the car to the wallet which will be very convenient.
Heidi: It would be.
Jonathan: Yes, when you’re fishing around trying to find the right thing. Then they talked about the sports features coming to Apple News. This is where we get to say,”Boo, here’s about Apple News.” At least three of us do.
Anthony: So annoying. It’s-
Michael: It’s still at New Zealand. Wow.
Anthony: -five years now or something?
Jonathan: Yes. No there’s no Apple News App in New Zealand. It just doesn’t appear.
Anthony: It just doesn’t appear at all.
Jonathan: If you change your language say to Australian English or us English or whatever, then it magically appears. The moment you switch it back to New Zealand English, there’s no Apple News at all.
Anthony: It’s ridiculous.
Jonathan: It is ridiculous.
Heidi: Still only available in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada-
Anthony: And Australia.
Heidi: -and Australia.
Jonathan: Now, that’s probably most people listening so let’s just talk about that. You can favorite your teams that you’re following and then [crosstalk]
Anthony: [crosstalk] I just want to say that.
Jonathan: I beg your pardon.
Anthony: Go the Red Sox, I’d be favoring them if we–
Jonathan: Would you?
Anthony: I would.
Jonathan: Okay then. You can sync them to Apple TV where by the way, we don’t have the Friday night baseball in New Zealand either.
Anthony: No. Don’t get me started on that fleet.
Jonathan: [laughs] They have it in Australia but they don’t have it in New Zealand. Are you a big Apple News user, Mike? Do you find it a good experience?
Michael: In fact, I really value the Apple News+ I subscribe to that as part of my Apple One and I make a lot of use out of it reading magazines and things like that. I’m not a sports fan at all. I have yet to find after nearly killing a camper trying out archery as a kid, I’ve never really found sports I could really get into much. Downhill skiing maybe for a bit but for people who are really into it I can absolutely see how the ability now to follow a team like you’d follow a channel of other subjects and just have it mine your–
The sources that are available to Apple News just mine that for stories on your favorite teams and things. I can really understand the appeal of that. People will be happy about this who use Apple News+ anyway. I don’t know whether it’ll get them new subscribers but it really might. That could really be a wake-up for some people who just haven’t tapped into Apple News+ yet.
Jonathan: I’m really pleased to hear that the Apple News+ experience is accessible in terms of those magazines because I did wonder that. Does it vary? Are there some magazines that aren’t accessible or are they all accessible?
Michael: A lot of them just are really accessible so it does seem to encourage that. There are some that really haven’t taken advantage of the formatting tools. For example with National Geographic that was one of the first ones, I looked at. You had full, very detailed captions of pictures explaining what was there. You had the articles fully readable, easily readable without too much flass. It was a nice experience. It appears, like in so many things, they give publishers these tools and they have quite a bit of latitude as to what they end up using for what they put on Apple News.
I don’t think they have to put their entire arsenal of articles and things on. I know some newspapers don’t do that as much. They withhold certain things but they give you a massive amount of information that you can just tap into as a subscriber without even thinking of payment or anything like that. You can just go in there and read stuff.
Jonathan: For all of the argy-bargy that we sometimes all get dragged into with social media and fake news and various things like that. We sometimes forget what a wonderous age we live in when all these magazines that years ago would’ve been off-limits to us. At least for some time until they were produced in some accessible format. They’re just there now. It is wonderful how far we’ve come.
Michael: Instantly there, I’ve really appreciated that.
Jonathan: Mate. Family Sharing. This has been updated a little bit. When you say it happen on your device there’s a quick-start feature now. You can make it clear right from the get-go that you are setting up the device for a family member. That’s pretty nice. There’s a family checklist. This helps you update your device as your child gets older and probably gets into the stroppy monosyllabic phase.
Jonathan: They drop their monosyllabic and it’s briefly enough to say, “Why are you being such a control freak with my device, dad?”
There’s a location sharing. You can deal with that. There’s a whole lot of other options as well. One of the things that I thought was really groovy and I thought this was groovy in the context of my worldwide travel that I’m about to take with Bonnie and Nicola actually. Nicola is part of our Family Sharing group, is this concept of the photo library for family members. This seems very well thought through. You can share this family photo library and you can participate in just one shared library which occurred to me that might be potentially a bit limiting.
If I’m understanding what they’re saying that you can only be in one family library because there are people these days with blended families.
Michael: I understood that you have your own separate photo library and you can choose what from that to share with the main library. [crosstalk]
Jonathan: That’s right, but my understanding is that you can only have one family library. What I’m saying is you might be part of more than one family because if you’ve got a mother and step-parents or a father and a step-parent. It’s conceivable you could be part of two families effectively. My understanding is there’s only one family library that you can subscribe to at any one time.
Heidi: Yes, so it just applies to your Family Sharing group. Henry is part of our Family Sharing group so he could contribute to ours but he couldn’t be part of say his parent’s family group because he’s not part of theirs.
Jonathan: Right, so that’s another example, isn’t it? As you get older and so Henry’s part of the in-law’s family group but that locks him out of his own family group.
Anthony: Of his own family, yes.
Jonathan: Yes. Anyway, that might be something that they take care of in future. There are some algorithms that make suggestions about photos that belong in that group. You can move them there right from the camera, which I think is pretty cool. Where this is good is for example Nicola might want to take a lot of photos when we go on our trip to the UK and in Sweden and France. Bonnie and I might want to share them on social media for those who care. That would be great because it means that she probably won’t have iOS 16 by the time we do this though because it will still be in beta.
I’m not sure if I want to travel overseas with buggy code on my phone. [laughter]
In the future, we could do this. I think there are all sorts of potential blindness benefits here for people who might want to take some good photos for blind family members to easily access and share.
Heidi: They did mention that you can add captions to photos and those would all sync properly as well. If someone took a picture, they could just put a quick description in the caption section, and then the blind people would know what the picture was of.
Jonathan: That is really brilliant. I can see that’s a very practical, beneficial feature. One thing that I also thought was really good and this is just the sort of thing that makes you feel, ah, Apple can be nice sometimes and sensible and good corporate citizens. Is this business with a safety check, I’d be interested to know where AirTags come into this because there has been a bit of concern expressed about AirTags. Although I have to say, I feel like I should come to Apple’s defense because I think they’ve been unduly picked on probably because of their influence.
Tiles have been around a lot longer than AirTags. I don’t really think that Tiles has done a particularly good job of putting anti-stalking measures in place before all the attention was given to Apple when Apple released the AirTags. Anyway, this new safety check feature Apple has worked with organizations that represent victims of domestic violence. You can now reduce and reset the access that others have to your information, and you can find out what access they have. This would include data and location.
Also, if you’re sharing passwords, anything like that, you can take care of it. You can disable iCloud on devices other than the one that you are using if you have multiple devices. If you need to flee an unsafe situation and you leave your iPad behind, but you’re taking your iPhone, you can disable the access that somebody might have to that iPad and that data. You can see who you’ve given access to. This sounds like a really sensible and worthwhile initiative. Should we talk about this? Go ahead.
Michael: Absolutely. I like that they keep doing that, like thinking of the consequences and really addressing. That happens with– unfortunately far too often people get cut up in these relationships. It’s nice that they have an easy way now to go through and really have the help of Apple to check and show what their vulnerabilities are. What they might have shared and can be exposing. That could be massively helpful.
Jonathan: Should we talk about the Smart Home now? We love our Smart Home. I consider Mosen Towers to be quite a smart home but one of the things that we have grappled with in New Zealand anyway, and I think it’s a slightly better predicament in North America. In New Zealand, it is really difficult to find a lot of HomeKit-compatible accessories. We’ve rocked it out of the park with the Phillips Hue. We can control Phillips Hue on any smart device that we have, but for example, our Ring Video Doorbell which is easily obtainable in New Zealand is not yet compatible with HomeKit.
Our heating systems are not compatible with HomeKit, but they do work with the Soup Drinker and Google Home, and on and on it goes. Mike, you were talking about Matter before. This is something that I’ve been reading about for a while. It sounds like you have too. A new open standard that seeks to make the Smart Home more mainstream by meaning that consumers are not going to have to worry about “which device do I have to buy to work with a thing that I have.” It should be much easier than it is.
Michael: Yes. I think that’ll be really great for anyone who needs these devices. Sara and I really don’t use any of them. We’re in an apartment and it just doesn’t make sense when you can just walk across and turn a knob to change the temperature.
Jonathan: What?? How 19th century are you?
Michael: Get one of these thermostats. I can see it in a house more than I can in a rented thing, like an apartment. For people who really need these devices or have larger properties where it’s not as convenient as a lot of people with disabilities, it could be massively helpful to have this stuff. If they can really get companies to cooperate and have this standard really be the standard and it incorporates their security, like this is Apple has said, the system that they have to made a lot of it available in this Matter standard, that’s huge.
That could really be massively helpful for people.
Jonathan: We’re in a larger home. There are some practical benefits, but even then as a blind person without perception, one of the things I really like about Siri’s implementation or Apple’s implementation, you can ask whether devices are on or off. I really do appreciate that when it comes to lights, just to find out if there are any lights left on when someone’s left our house that I may not know about. There are some really good benefits. Heidi or Anthony have either of you dabbled in the smart home ecosystem at all at this point.
Anthony: No, I haven’t.
Heidi: I have. We’ve switched all the lights that we could in our house to Phillips Hue bulbs and our heat pump connects to our Soup Drinker.
Jonathan: Have you got a Mitsubishi one?
Heidi: No. It’s Gree. I’d never heard of the brand.
Anthony: I’ve got that too.
Heidi: Yeas. Well, it shows up as an airport extreme, more express or something on our WiFi network which really confuses me. We thought someone was trying to like attach themselves to our network. The setup is a bit funky, but once it’s going, it works really well with the Soup Drinker and so we don’t have to use the remote anymore.
Jonathan: [crosstalk] You have Anthony, the same thing [crosstalk] You might be able to get your Soup Drinker to control it.
Heidi: Maybe we need to have some cozy time and I’ll come and help.
Jonathan: You might be smarter than you ever knew.
Anthony: That was a very good idea, Heidi.
Jonathan: I’ve not heard of this brand either. You can control the temperature.
Heidi: The temperature, what mode it’s on, like heating or cooling or whatever, turn it on and off.
Jonathan: You can set a routine. For example, we have this routine that switches our heat on at 4:30 in the morning because we get up at 5:00 every morning. We’ve got three heat pumps because we’ve got so much space to heat and it turns them on, and stuff like that. Now with your heat pump, can you specify the temperature by way of a routine?
Heidi: I haven’t tried to set it up with Routines. We just tell it what to do. We haven’t yes.
Jonathan: Okay fine.
Heidi: I guess because we can do that thing, we could also do it in a routine.
Jonathan: Oh yes. You’d absolutely be able to do it in routine and it just really depends on what it exposes to the Soup Drinker. That would be quite interesting, but it’s not HomeKit compatible. Is that right?
Jonathan: See, that’s the frustration, isn’t it?
Jonathan: So little stuff here is. This is where Matter is going to be so significant that if we can get these devices to be backward compatible with Matter. I don’t know if that’s going to happen or not. Suddenly a lot of devices will start working with the iPhone that didn’t before. There’s a new home app in iOS 16 as well. Very exciting. Significant revamp of CarPlay. I mentioned this because there may be blind people listening who have sighted spouses or people in their lives or employees who drive them where this CarPlay improvement will be beneficial.
What I want to know is it’s all very well to talk about CarPlay Tim and team, but what about the car?
Anthony: Yes, please.
Jonathan: What about the car where I can say to my car, “Hey, S-I-R-I take me to work” and it will say, “I found something on the web about, take me to work, take a look.”
Anyone want to say anything about CarPlay?
Anthony: I want an Apple driving car for Christmas.
Heidi: It looks very pretty, and it’s cool that it integrates with the car’s systems, so you can get like the speed and stuff through it now as well, but I don’t think it’s particularly applicable to the blind community.
Michael: I’ve always had this thought that, if they plaster all this visual stuff up there, how distracting is this stuff from driving?
Heidi: Yes, I guess it can be, though, with some of the stuff, they’re essentially just talking about replacing the manual dials and things, speedometer things, with digital displays instead, so they’re just replacing things that we already have, but then when it comes to having a map and a music player and the weather, those things do seem a bit distracting.
Jonathan: Yet, it does allow a blind person to play even more of a co-pilot role. I think this has increased over the last few years with GPS technology, various other things, then it does allow a blind person to make a worthwhile contribution to the journey while the driver can concentrate on driving.
Heidi: Yes. That’s fair.
Jonathan: Spatial Audio, using the TrueDepth camera to create a personalized spatial audio profile, OMG. Exciting to anyone?
Michael: I don’t have AirPods that use spatial audio. I guess when I get a set of AirPods 3rd generation, they will. If I understand, it would look at the space, or would it look at your head, and what’s it basing this profile on?
Jonathan: Any help with the visuals, Heidi, before I have a go?
Heidi: They had a cute little cartoon character of a person’s head and it was tracking where their ears were and how far away it was from the screen.
Jonathan: Yes, that’s how I imagined it. It’s the same technology that Face ID works with so it will understand where your face is in relation to everything and give you audio accordingly.
Heidi: Yes, so if, say, your left ear is towards the screen because you’re looking at something somewhere else, the sound will sound like it’s coming from your left.
Jonathan: What air pods are you rocking, Anthony? Do you have the benefit of the spacial audio?
Anthony: Yes, I’ve got the 2nd generation, so yes.
Jonathan: Do you like it?
Anthony: I do. I do. It’s quite buzzy when you’re turning your head around and everything just moving, adjusting. I do like it.
Heidi: I just got a pair of 3rd gen AirPods and I put them in and the feature was turned on automatically, and I turned to Henry and I was like, “Is the sound coming out of my speakers?” Because I couldn’t tell that it was my headphones because when I moved my head, the sound moved.
Jonathan: So it’s really immersive.
Jonathan: So you find it quite impressive?
Jonathan: Cool. Quick Note was a feature that was introduced to iPad OS and now it is coming to iOS 16, so this is just a quick way of making a note. I think for those who want to be able to use their iPhones as a note-taker and just quickly have something where they can write something down, this could be quite useful. All right, what is next? watchOS is next. Now, Mike, you’ve got to admit there’s a lot in iOS, right? I mean, there was a lot there. We’ve been talking about iOS all this time.
Michael: That’s true, yes. I guess when we go through it, it’s more obvious than when the people at Apple rattle through it at light speed.
Jonathan: Well, that’s right. I was amazed at the pace because they just had so much to get through now. Now, there are four new watch faces coming to watchOS 9. There’s Astronomy, Lunar, named after Lovegood. Oh no, I don’t think so. Lunar Calendar watch. What else have we got? Playtime and Metropolitan. Any comments on the watch faces, Heidi?
Heidi: The Playtime one’s really cute.
Heidi: Because the numbers look like little characters. They’ve got feet and eyes.
Jonathan: Oh, that’s nice.
Heidi: When you’ve got the Always-On Display and you turn it away and everything dims, apparently, they go to sleep.
Jonathan: So it’s something that the grandchild would be attracted to.
Jonathan: Cool. I’ll bear that in mind.
Jonathan: watchOS 9 is also going to bring rich complications to more watch faces so I think people will appreciate that. Just more dynamic content to more watch faces. Also, one thing that I think is a really good move, and I think this is a bit of a Deja Vu moment, I seem to recall it used to be this way, now active apps are pinned to the top of the doc. I don’t know if anybody else remembers this, but I’m pretty sure that’s what used to happen. If I’m right about that, I’m glad that it’s back so you’ll see at the top of the doc the apps that are currently running in case you need to close them or do anything like that.
Also, the podcast app, which I have to say I have very little regard for as a serious podcast listener and a podcast creator. I don’t think Apple’s podcast offering is up to snuff, but anyway, they can build it in and the podcast app is now more standalone in the watch this year. Right from the watch, you’ll be able to search for podcasts and subscribe or what Apple now calls follow podcasts from the watch, so that’s good.
I do wonder whether the Apple Watch will allow you to use Made for iPhone hearing aids this year, and if not, whether more apps will be allowed to work with the watch’s speaker because as a hearing aid user, that has been quite a limiting factor for me in terms of my use of the watch. Increased data in the workout app.
Heidi: Can I backtrack slightly?
Jonathan: Of course.
Heidi: They’ve also changed the Siri interface so it’s more like on the iPhone where it’s just like the little Siri icon overlaying on the screen rather than it going to its own blank screen where the text appears, and the notifications now look like banners rather than full-screen things as well.
Jonathan: All right. Okay, so I wonder how that will work with VoiceOver. All right, we’ll have to have a play with that. It got quite geeky with fitness when they were talking about new data that is being collected in the Workout App, particularly when you are running and you want to make sure that you are looking after your health and not injuring yourself, so a lot of data there. I don’t know whether, Heidi, you want to say any more about that or whether anyone else has any comment on that? No?
Jonathan: Okay, so they also have triathlon support and it seeks to automatically detect when you go into the different components of the triathlon, so that’s cool. The Fitness App is coming to iOS 16. I think this is wonderful because not everybody in our community can afford an Apple Watch. They’ve splurged out for an iPhone. It was a big outlay for them in a financial sense, and they want to get fit too. Now there is the Apple Fitness App in iOS 16. It won’t be able to collect as accurate data as it would if it were in combination with the Apple Watch, but you still have the App nonetheless.
Heidi: Yes, so it’s just a Move ring so there’s no Activity or Stand rings, and yes, it estimates rather than being able to calculate off heart rate.
Jonathan: I guess that makes sense because it can’t measure when you’ve stood up and–
Michael: You would just have the information from the motion sensors in the phone, so yes
Jonathan: Yes, you might call it motion at large.
Michael: Oh, dear. [chuckles]
Jonathan: What else, watchOS 9 provides data on sleep stage, so there are three phases of sleep. What are they? REM, deep? Core sleep and deep, I think. Now you’ll be able to go back and look at when you were in those stages of sleep and how long you were in those stages for. I’m going to find this quite interesting. I think a lot of blind people will find it quite interesting because so many of us have difficulty getting our sleep under control. Any other comments on the Sleep App Heidi in terms of the visuals?
Heidi: There’s a really cool graph, I don’t know if that’s very helpful though, but it shows it in sort of a timeline view, so it shows you that, say, you were in core sleep between 9:00 and 10:00, and then you’re in deep sleep between 10:30 and 10:30, for example, and it shows you where you were each stage on a timeline along the night.
Heidi: Then it’s also got just the overall time you spent in that as a list, so–
Anthony: That is cool.
Michael: That could be really useful and VoiceOver can deal with things like that. Like you can get, there are other graphs like Battery Health and things that you can actually get audio representations of and descriptions of, so that could really help a lot of people.
Jonathan: Yes. I’ve no doubt it will be well done with an accessible implementation. You’re a pretty new Apple Watch user, Anthony. How are you finding the device?
Anthony: Love it. Love it. I’ve about a year now I think. I’m pretty sure it was around about June and I use it all the time. It’s purely just a fitness thing. I don’t have any extra apps on the device, so it’s just basically for activities and standing and all that kind of usual stuff. Especially I find it useful when I’m at work in particular because I have had a bad habit of just working away and just losing track of time but at least this gives me a reminder to at least make sure I get up and do something every hour.
Jonathan: Yes. It’s the Apple stand police.
Anthony: I might use it occasionally if I’m away from my phone. In fact, I think you’ve rung me a couple of times, and my phone’s been on charge, and so I’ll just talk using the Apple Watch but that’s about it I think.
Jonathan: I use the Sleep++ app, and somebody reminded me about this actually on this podcast and I got it again after some years of not having it and I really enjoyed it because it’s automatic and it gives you some good data, but I think this will make the Sleep app a lot more attractive and you’ve got to get into the rhythm, of course. What I typically do is when I’m showering or in the bath, something like that, I put the watch on charge. Normally, I’ve got my rings closed by 5:00 PM because I get up at 5:00 AM. I always just make sure that I have a full charge before I go to sleep and that cadence seems to work for me okay, but I think there’ll be some pressure on Apple for the next watch to see if they can prolong battery life.
Anthony: How long do you get with your Apple Watch. Do you get a full day or? Because I can actually–
Jonathan: I went through a major crisis with it a couple of years ago where there was something hogging the battery and I finally worked out how to fix that. I can’t even remember what I– I think it was to do with iCloud backup funnily.
Anthony: Yes, it was. Yes. It was a backup. Yes, that’s right.
Jonathan: It was terrible. I couldn’t even get through a day. Now I could easily get through two days most of the time– [crosstalk]
Anthony: Yes, I’m exactly the same. I can get through two days and then I have to put it on charge.
Jonathan: What about you Heidi? You were going to say something.
Heidi: Oh, just that mine has really good battery life too. [chuckles]
Jonathan: Yay. Very good. All right, now also, AFib History. This is not talking about politicians who don’t tell the truth.
Jonathan: This is short for A-fibrillation and you can track the amount of time that your heart has spent in AFib. That sounds like a great feature if you are, I was going to say afflicted with that, I think that’s a fair description, and if you have that issue that you need to monitor.
Now, the thing that I think will really be very welcomed by a lot of people is all this emphasis on medications in the Apple Watch coming up. There is a new dedicated medications app in watchOS 9. This is going to allow you to track medications. That could be prescription medicine but that could also just be vitamins and supplements. Over the last few years, I have become a major [chuckle] vitamins and supplements geek, and our little breakfast bar thing is covered in vitamins and supplements and things, and it will be really great to be able to track my intake of that.
You can receive notifications for medications that you need to take regularly. You can track medications in the Health app on your phone as well even if you don’t have an Apple Watch. There’ll be, my understanding is, Heidi, a new category added to health in the iOS Health app?
Heidi: Yes. That’s what it looks like they’ve done
Jonathan: Right. You also, and this I think is very significant, from an accessibility perspective, for an area which does make blind people quite vulnerable at times. You can use the iPhone camera to scan the label of a medication bottle or tab, whatever it might be, and it will tell you what the medication is, hopefully. I don’t know whether it’s doing that based on barcode or what the technology is so it may vary from country to country.
Heidi: It looks an awful lot like it’s just using the live text– [crosstalk]
Jonathan: Oh, well, then that’s even better because that means it’s not so dependent on the country to country. Because if it’s barcode-specific, then the barcode here, say, might be different from the barcode in the United States, but if it’s just extracting Gator with live text, that’s even better in my opinion. It’s also easier than trying to find the barcode a lot of the time.
Jonathan: Yes, you will receive an alert when you add a new medication if there’s a chance that there’s going to be a critical interaction. In other words, you take this medication with this other medication that you’re taking and it could make you ill or it could be something you need to watch. You can also send a family member an invitation to share their health data with you, their medication data. Now, where I think this is interesting is a lot of people get to a stage in life where suddenly, they become, at least to some degree, a caregiver for elderly parents.
I think the combination of fall detection on the Apple Watch and the fact, that it can send an alert if somebody has a fall and this medication checking, it’s a really lovely package to just give you peace of mind if you are in that situation. Does anyone have any comments on all that medication stuff?
Michael: I think that’s great. I’ve often seen requests on AppleVis and elsewhere for apps that help you track and get reminders rather than using just, you could just use the reminder app to generate that or the Calendar app even, but I think having a specialized place that really keeps track, it is set up for medication, maybe keeps track of amounts and things, that could be really, really useful.
Heidi: Also, it seems like they’ve considered people might not want other people to see what specific medication it is. On the example from the Apple Watch screenshot for logging and medication, it just says, log your 10:30 AM medications, and I assume once you tap on it, it will tell you which ones it is, but that way, if someone else is looking at your watch, they don’t know what medication you’re taking.
Jonathan: Right. That’s excellent. That’s well thought through. Yes, good UI. There is also a new way to connect watchOS apps to Apple TV. We’ll watch this space with considerable interest and find out how that will work. Hey, was there anything visually displayed about that, Heidi?
Jonathan: Okay. Any other comments on watchOS 9 before we move on? A pretty meaty release this year. Hey, see more than just visuals, Mike, more than just visuals.
Michael: It is.
Heidi: One thing that was in the visual summary at the end that I don’t think they actually talked about is kickboard detection for when you’re swimming. I don’t know if there’s people here who when they swim, use the little flutter board kickboard thing, but that will help track those workouts more accurately too.
Jonathan: Well, that’s nice. I haven’t used one of those since I was a kid.
Anthony: I was just going to say the same thing.
Jonathan: Yes, cool. All right. Let’s look at the Mac. Now, the Mac is an interesting thing. The hardware, since Apple went ARM and they released M1, has been absolutely stunning, and now they’ve come out with M2. This was an iterative thing so it’s even faster, it’s cleverer, and it’s better with energy consumption. What else can we say about it? The first MacBook to get M2 Is the MacBook Air. They say, Apple do, it’s the world’s biggest-selling laptop. What is the new MacBook Air like, Heidi, because you obviously know how blind people think. Would I be able as a blind person to pick up a MacBook Air that we have, for example, here at Mosen Towers right now, we’ve got a MacBook Air running M1? Would I be able to pick this up and then pick up a new MacBook Air and immediately say, oh, this is the MacBook Air running the M2?
Heidi: Absolutely. They’ve got rid of the tapered design.
Heidi: It’s even thickness all the way along now. It’s more MacBook Pro-esque than MacBook Air-esque.
Jonathan: Right. Very thin, thinner than the current MacBook Air, I think.
Heidi: I’m not sure. I can’t remember how–
Jonathan: I think they’ve said it was– Yes, they said 20% reduction over the previous year. I took a note here.
Jonathan: So you definitely feel the difference.
Heidi: Yes, and new colors.
Jonathan: Right. New colors, that’s exciting. What are the new colors?
Heidi: You’ve got your Silver and your Space Gray, which I think you already have. Then you’ve got your Starlight, and then they’ve got midnight, which is like a very, very, very deep blue.
Jonathan: Right, okay. That’s exciting. It’s just so exciting. One thing that I audibly went, “No,” about, [chuckles] I must be such a minority on this, but I don’t care, [laughs] they brought the MagSafe thing back. One other thing, I hated the MagSafe connector when I was a Mac user before because it was so easy for that little thing to fall out of its charger. I know that the logic was that it was designed to make sure that the Mac didn’t take a tumble if somebody tripped the cord or something. I get that but oh, man, it was so easy to dislodge that MagSafe connection, but anyway. You don’t have to use it, do you, because you could still charge it from one of the Thunderbolt ports. Is that right? [crosstalk]
Heidi: They didn’t say you could still use the Thunderbolt port, but they didn’t say you couldn’t.
Jonathan: Okay. I have to see. Anyway, that’s back by popular demand so I, what’s the word, gracefully, I gracefully concede on that one. There’s a liquid written a display. It’s 13.6 inches so you’ve got a bit more real estate.
Heidi: Yes. It’s got a notch.
Jonathan: It’s got a notch. [laughs] It’s not a bug, it’s a feature. A three-mic array and even better speakers. I got to say, the Dell XPS 15 that I owned for a while came close but nothing that I have ever heard comes close to the way Apple does audio on a laptop. Nothing. Absolutely stunning what they do with the audio on their laptops.
Heidi: A better camera so you look better in all those video calls.
Jonathan: Tremendous, yes, and the audio supports spatial audio. You’ve got touch ID on the Mac, and of course, the trackpad. For those who have not used a Mac as a blind person, the trackpad is fully accessible. So when you’re running VoiceOver and you enable the trackpad, you can flick left and right, you can use the rotor gesture, you can double-tap. It’s like using an iPhone. Not completely because it works a little bit differently but it’s very similar, and it can be a very good way to introduce yourself to the Mac.
Heidi: On the M1 MacBook Air, does it still have those funky short-function keys?
Jonathan: Funky short function keys.
Heidi: Half-height above the number row. The function keys were half-height when I had one.
Jonathan: If it does, it never bothered me enough to notice it.
Heidi: Okay. Well, they specifically told us about how they’re now full height function keys.
Jonathan: Okay. Well, that’s good.
Heidi: If that annoyed anyone.
Jonathan: Yes, and no more touch bar. Hurray.
Heidi: There was never a touch bar on a MacBook Air.
Jonathan: No, I know, but even on the Pro there’s no touch bar.
Heidi: They’ve actually brought it back.
Heidi: They brought the touch bar back to the 13-inch MacBook Pro.
Jonathan: Have they really?
Heidi: Yes. They didn’t say anything about it but it’s in the pictures.
Jonathan: Oh, that’s extraordinary. That’s extraordinary. Oh, well, that is unfortunate.
Jonathan: Both devices are silent and fanless, you get up to 18 hours of battery life on the Air, 20 hours on the Pro. You’ve got a fast charge option, and there’s also a USB power charger thing with two USB-C ports so you can do quite a lot of charging. For me, these devices are so mouthwatering in terms of their specs, how fast they go, how long they run, but VoiceOver still lets it down, I’m afraid.
Anthony: It does.
Jonathan: Yes, on macOS, VoiceOver really does let it down and I wish we could just have a big overhaul. Nevertheless, there is a version of JAWS coming up very shortly in beta for ARM processors. With some agreements expiring soon, I’m hoping that you might be able to boot camp these Macs to the ARM version of Windows. If I can get the ARM version of JAWS on a MacBook Air, I could be really tempted to do that and run Windows on it. Yes, nice hardware. Nice hardware.
Heidi: Very nice hardware.
Anthony: It is.
Jonathan: Any other comments about the hardware before we talk about a few features in macOS? Safari busy.
Anthony: You mean before we take a ride on Ventura highway.
Jonathan: Ventura, yes. I always like the little bits about what they’re going to name the macOS this year. It’s called Ventura, macOS Ventura. This really does come to where Mike’s talking about visual things. One of the big features that they touted about macOS Ventura, which will be coming later this year, like all these software updates, you can’t get them now, let me just say that before I forget. There will be a public beta soon. Some developer betas are out now, and then you probably won’t get the real things until probably late September.
Heidi: Yes, they said public beta’s in July.
Jonathan: Yes. I believe that developer beta 3 is going to be public beta 1 at least for iOS. Stage Manager, is this a purely aesthetic thing? I was finding it hard to conceptualize how Stage Manager will make a difference for VoiceOver users.
Heidi: I think it’s very much an aesthetic thing. Some blind VoiceOver users might use it but I don’t see why they’d want to. The only feature that I guess was cool is it’s like a hybrid between just having multiple desktops and then having everything on one desktop.
Jonathan: I wondered about that. It sounded a bit like how in Windows, you can create many desktops and just put the apps you want on the desktop and ALT tab between them so it creates less clutter.
Heidi: Yes, but I thought Macs already had multiple desktops.
Jonathan: Yes, it’s been a while since I’ve tried so you may be right. We’ll find out more I’m sure in all the reviews about how Stage Manager differs from multiple desktops. What else have we got in macOS, I’m just scrolling through my notes. There’s the obligatory changes to Spotlight search, of course, and it was also interesting to hear. Even when they stopped talking about iOS officially, they kept talking about iOS.
Anthony: Yes, they did
Jonathan: One of the things they mentioned in the context of Spotlight search for Mac was that they were going to add Spotlight search to the bottom of the iOS Home Screen. [crosstalk]They really want people to use Spotlight search and I guess their data says that people just don’t. I sympathize because Spotlight search is very powerful but how often do people here actually make use of it?
Heidi: I use it all the time.
Jonathan: There you go. How do you and why do you use it?
Heidi: Well, I guess I use it in the same way that some people would use Siri to open apps and look things up but I don’t like talking to Siri.
Heidi: It’s just the swipe down and then I just type in whatever app I want to open or whatever I want to look up or something like that. I just use it all the time. I think this is a Siri replacement.
Jonathan: Anyone else using Spotlight?
Jonathan: How do you use it?
Anthony: Exactly the same as Heidi, although I do use Siri from time to time, but I just get so frustrated with Siri’s responses. I did find it a lot quicker, just swipe down and search for apps or weather, just anything. It’s quite powerful so I’m pleased to actually see it right on the home screen now.
Jonathan: Now, Mike, you’ve got into every nook, cranny, and crevice of the iPhone. Are you a Spotlight search fan?
Michael: Well, I don’t tend to use it much. I typically just ask Siri things or use Google. Like if I want a more in-depth answer that’s probably going to be useful, I tend to go towards the Google Assistant because it just seems to do that. That’s its real core strength is giving those concise but still robust answers.
Jonathan: I like Spotlight search but I don’t know whether I use it a huge amount but I do sometimes use it, particularly when I’m trying to find– I know that I’ve had a communication with someone and I can’t remember did this particular thing I talked to them about happen in an iMessage or an email. When I use Spotlight search, I can find it and I like that. Speaking of search, there’s improved search in mail on all the mail apps it looks like, Mac, iOS, and iPad, so there’s more context awareness with this. Did you see anything of interest with the search, Heidi, for mail?
Heidi: They did mention that if you spell something wrong, it’ll try and guess what you actually meant to type and search for that instead.
Jonathan: Holy duck.
Heidi: Yes, but I don’t know, it didn’t seem that great.
Jonathan: Right. Safari, now that you, but —
Heidi: Also in mail, you can now schedule sending messages and stuff like that.
Jonathan: Now is that coming to iOS as well?
Heidi: They seem to, I think they mentioned that it was.
Jonathan: That’s pretty cool having a built-in scheduler feature. I like that.
Heidi: Yes, and you can also be reminded in a specific timeframe about a message.
Jonathan: Right. That’s good too. Brilliant. Oh, we’ll have some fun to play with. Safari now lets you share tabs with other users so this could be good if you are collaborating with people. There’s quite a collaboration theme in some of these new features that are in the Apple products this year. They describe the scenario of planning a trip funny enough so that resonated with me.
Now, the thing that I thought was interesting because this was almost a passing comment. There were so many big things that passed in the blink of an eye on this keynote. Apple wants to replace the password. I think this is a very– this is perhaps the most significant development that they announced today in my opinion, they want to replace the password with the concept of passkeys. You use touch ID or Face ID to authenticate. The passkey only works with the sites that you’ve created it for so none of this malarkey of having a password everybody uses everywhere, and it never leaves your device.
It essentially renders phishing obsolete because if somebody takes you to a site that isn’t really the site, the passkey is not going to work. It works with all Apple products and Microsoft has reached out to other manufacturers, I presume Google, as well as Microsoft, Apple has reached out to other manufacturers including Microsoft and Google, and they want this to work across devices. In theory, what happens is you could sign in on your Windows device by having your iPhone with you which acts as a dongle, a passkey dongle thing.
Heidi: They had a QR code that you scanned with your iPhone.
Jonathan: Oh, no.
Heidi: QR code on the Windows laptop, you scan it with your iPhone, some magic happens.
Jonathan: I guess I don’t have a lot of trouble with this, I quite regularly scan QR codes, but I had a conversation with a group of people recently regarding WhatsApp and how the only way to authenticate with WhatsApp on your computer is to do this, and a lot of blind people do not like this at all, so that’s going to be unfortunate. How do you guys feel about QR codes?
Michael: I haven’t made a ton of use of them really but, in theory, I like it as long as I can tell where they are, or the camera can scan widely enough so you don’t have to be as precise.
Anthony: Yes, I’m the same. I certainly haven’t had a problem with the QR codes that I’ve used it with so far.
Jonathan: All right. Well, that’s going to be something that I think might need a little bit of thought in terms of accessibility for those who are not so familiar with the camera and may have some difficulty getting the angle right to take a pic of that QR code on the screen.
Heidi: You’d also have to consider people who use screen curtains, and I know a lot of screen reader users don’t use Windows full-screened, and if they’re too small, they could obstruct the QR code as well and you wouldn’t even know.
Jonathan: And there are some people who don’t have a monitor as well because they don’t need a monitor, and so we don’t have a monitor to scan the QR code on.
Anthony: I’m looking at myself when I say yes.
Jonathan: I’m sure you look very nice.
Anthony: I do, always.
Jonathan: There are improvements to continuity as well, easier handoff between the iPhone and the Mac. Anything to share on this, Heidi? I think they demonstrated a phone call that would be used to be handed off between devices.
Heidi: Yes, they use the example of you’re on a FaceTime call on your phone, you get to your Mac, you open it up, a little pop-up notification appears saying that you’re on a FaceTime call and there’s a switch button, you click switch and it transfers the call automatically to your Mac.
Jonathan: Is that the big difference? Because in the past, you would go to the doc, wouldn’t you, or something like that, and you’d see the call on the doc, so this is more aggressive, it’s kind of putting the notification in there?
Heidi: Yes. Could you transfer a FaceTime call before?
Jonathan: Pretty sure you could.
Jonathan: Yes. I think [inaudible 01:23:24]
Jonathan: You can now use your iPhone as your webcam on the–
Heidi: That looks real dinky.
Jonathan: Dinky, why?
Heidi: Well, it’s like it’s I got these little mounts and you clip it onto the top of your Mac, and it’s got your iPhone hanging on it and they showed ones using MagSafe, and its cameras are pointing over the top of the screen looking at you, and it’s just like, it makes me think of really old bulky webcams that people used to have, and I don’t know, it just it doesn’t seem very clean.
Jonathan: I see. There was this accessory range that they were talking about, which is due later this year, it would essentially cause the iPhone to be above your Mac’s screen.
Jonathan: Right. Okay. Yes, that’s kind of weird. I guess, but there’s no reason, presumably given that it is wireless, why it wouldn’t work say with the older Apple doc. If you, as a blind person, just wanted to sit at your desk in front of your iPhone camera with the Apple doc, wouldn’t that work?
Heidi: Well, it’s using the back cameras.
Jonathan: Oh, okay. Oh, I see.
Michael: That’s what I thought. See, you get much more out of that back camera than you would out of presumably the front camera.
Anthony: In the front.
Jonathan: Right, okay. So the way this accessory works, the phone is sitting on the top of the screen sort of bolted to it in some way, clipped to it, clamped to it, I imagine-
Jonathan: -and the back of the phone is facing you.
Heidi: Yes, and the screen’s facing away.
Jonathan: Right. Okay. All right. [chuckles] That’s interesting. Oh, well, we’ll see if that takes off.
Michael: Webcam makes that whole center stage go better because you’d have a lot more out of that back camera. It could adjust for your movement a lot better keeping you in the center of the frame.
Heidi: Yes. That is true.
Jonathan: I can’t help wondering whether this is also a partial reaction to the debacle that Apple got itself into with that really expensive monitor that they’ve released, and it’s got a dodgy camera and people are pretty upset about that and Apple tried to fix it in firmware but haven’t entirely succeeded. Well, is like another version of dongles. One thing that I thought was pretty interesting from a blindness perspective. I’m sitting here in my studio/home office at the moment and sometimes in the afternoon, I get the lovely afternoon sun a fair bit, but I get the sun streaming through the window and I’m conscious of this.
Sometimes I have to remember to draw the curtains because there’s too much light. They’ve got this thing called studio light and it brightens your face and it darkens the background, and it just occurred to me that that could be very beneficial to blind people who care about how they look on these things, but may not necessarily know the effects that lighting conditions are having.
Heidi: Yes. It’s using this technology from like portrait mode photos, and there’s already a filter you can apply, which is studio lighting. It’s just applying that to a video call using the iPhone camera, et cetera, et cetera.
Jonathan: Right. That is macOS Ventura. Should we talk about iPadOS? When iPads began running an iOS that had its own name– iPads used to run iOS and then some time ago, they renamed it iPadOS, and there’s been an expectation for a while that gradually, the iPad would develop its own look and feel, and that it would take advantage of the power and the screen real estate.
The iPad really is an interesting device. I still feel like its full potential hasn’t been realized because it’s a truly modular computer. You could just take the device with you when you want to consume content, and then you can add a keyboard when you want to, you can even add a mouse when you want to get work done. Heidi, you are getting the latest and greatest iPad. As we speak, we await its arrival.
Heidi: I am awaiting its arrival. I ordered one of the new iPad Airs almost a month ago now and I’m still waiting on its arrival.
Jonathan: Okay. What made you choose the Air over say, the Pro?
Heidi: At the time it was budget. I think because the new iPad Air has the M1 Chip and a lot of the same features as the iPad Pro, the big jump in price didn’t seem justifiable to me at the time. All I feel like I’m missing out on is face ID. I now have to have a Touch ID device, which I don’t think is going to be that big an issue, but I’ll see, and I don’t get the 120 Hertz screen, but my iPhone is a 60 Hertz iPhone anyway so it’s not like I’m used to 120 Hertz screen.
Jonathan: Right. As somebody who is a prospective new iPad Air owner, were you pleased by what they announced today?
Heidi: Yes, I was. I think there’s a decent amount of stuff in there that during my research for buying my iPad, I looked into a lot of what people were saying. A lot of it was about the OS and it seems like they’ve addressed a lot of the things people who were trying to use it as a more Pro device were concerned about so it seems pretty promising
Jonathan: It’s sort of funny that they started off with the fact that Weather is finally coming to the iPad. What has taken this so long, but okay.
Heidi: Yes, but still no calculator.
Michael: I was waiting to hear about the calculator that’s never appeared.
Heidi: Yes. [chuckles]
Jonathan: It is interesting anyway, and there’s also now a weather API, so there’ll be an abundance of weather apps. A really big facet of all that’s been announced today related to collaboration. When they started this demo, I thought Microsoft Word’s been doing this soup for years. You can all get into a document. I love how accessible this is, certainly to me in Windows, as a JAWS user. I find that I use it as a de facto whiteboard.
When we all need to brainstorm and I need to write things down with my team, we all just open up Word documents on our respective devices and we can write things down and make amendments and it all just works. As the demo unfolded, I felt okay, there’s a little bit more to it than that because you start a group message, and then when you’ve started the group message, it’s like a whole bunch of things are possible beyond just going into pages and working on a document. Is that what you got from the demo, Heidi?
Heidi: Yes. It’s not just the document you’re sharing, you could also be sharing a tab group as well and looking up different stuff. You’re being alerted to changes in the message chain as well if you want to be and things like that. It’s a little bit more than just editing a document, but not significantly more.
Jonathan: What also struck me is that, again, they came back and they said, and this is coming to iOS and macOS, so you’ll be able to do all this collaboration on your iPhone as well if you want to do that.
Jonathan: I think that will be good for a lot of us who, I know that there are many, many blind people who do have iPads. I got rid of mine when I had all sorts of difficulty with handoff working properly with my hearing aids, it didn’t work with my hearing aids and so it was just rusting in a corner. Well, I don’t think iPads rust, but it was sitting there doing nothing, so I got rid of my iPad. For those people who do want to collaborate with people who are in the Apple ecosystem, I think it’s brilliant that it’s working with the iPhone as well.
They also, in terms of collaboration, have an app that’s coming to all the Apple things called Freeform. This made me think of Microsoft OneNote. Do you think, Heidi, that it’s a fair comparison?
Heidi: I haven’t really used OneNote, so I don’t know if it’s a good comparison, but I can describe what it’s like and you can tell me if it’s a good comparison.
Jonathan: Okay then.
Jonathan: I think it is a good comparison because I made it up myself. [laughs]
Heidi: Well, that’s all that matters.
Heidi: Essentially, it feels like a big whiteboard where everyone can be writing in a different area, but it’s all one overarching big document. It seems like you can zoom in or out infinitely, though there’s probably some parameters. In the example they’ve got, someone is linking pictures in one part. It’s pinned on a Pinboard sort of thing. There’s a bunch of images scattered around and someone else is writing with an Apple pencil about part of the topic and someone else is pasting in sticky notes and someone else is typing in an area, but it’s all very organic and chaotic. It’s not very structured.
Jonathan: It is a bit like OneNote in some ways I suppose, but with a huge emphasis on collaboration. Again, I guess my comment is this is great if everybody’s committed to the Apple ecosystem. It comes back to the scenario I was talking about just before where I collaborate with my work colleagues, but what if they’re using Android devices, or what if I want to use my Windows PC? I’d like to be able to do that so I’m not sure whether that would suit our use case, but if you were embedded in the Apple ecosystem, it would and you can use sounds and video and all kinds of other documents as well.
Michael: I wonder how accessible they’re going to implement this. I think of an app called MindNode that basically lets you make a mind map and you can put in documents and other things into a mind map and actually have it all connected. I can see how that is made accessible, but if there’s no cells or points of navigation, I wonder how they’re going to make this more contiguous whiteboard kind of thing accessible?
Jonathan: I guess I’ve gotten over my fear that Apple is ever going to release an app of its own that is not accessible. That might be naive on my part but I think it’s unlikely that we will see an inaccessible app. I’ll wait and see and see how it goes but I think for me, it’s more how are people on non-Apple devices going to collaborate with this? Because I think that does limit its utility. This is one of the good things, obviously, about the Microsoft Office Suite is that it’s everywhere, and for that matter, the Google Suite, because it’s web-based so anybody can use it. We’ll see how that goes maybe they’ve got an answer to that.
Customizable elements that make it look more desktop-like, Heidi. It looks like they’ve got kind of like a menu bar in some instances, is that right?
Heidi: What was it called on the Mac with the weird window arrangement thing?
Jonathan: Mission control was it or?
Heidi: No, no, no, the new thing they just talked about.
Jonathan: Oh, Stage Manager.
Heidi: They’re essentially applying that to the iPad. You can, instead of just being fixed to the two apps and the Slide Over app, you can now pull them out into being cute little windows, and have them grouped together and choose which ones you want to be displayed and things like that. It lets you adjust what you’re viewing a lot more easily,
Jonathan: Right, and there are changes to the Files app, there are also you’ve got the ability to decrease the pixel density of the display so that you can view more data. It occurs to me that that might be quite beneficial for blind people because you can just squeeze, it doesn’t really matter what it looks like if you can get more data on the screen. That could be an advantage there.
Jonathan: Virtual Memory swap. That’s a very computer-like feature that they’ve added there. If you’ve got an iPad with a lot of RAM and an app needs to make use of that, or rather, that’s the other way round, if you’ve got an iPad with perhaps not much RAM, and you’ve got quite a bit of disk space, then you can use virtual memory there. That is essentially what I have in terms of all that’s there. That is quite a substantive update there to all Apple’s offerings, isn’t it?
Jonathan: You’re a bit less of a skeptic now, Mike, that was actually talked through.
Michael: A little bit, yes. Now that we think through the implications, which is hard to do when you’re trying to take notes and listen to a keynote, it does [chuckles] expand one’s thinking on this stuff. This is just don’t forget the tip of the iceberg because after this is the state of the platform, there’s a whole week of revelations ahead as we learn more about what else is in these updates that they didn’t have before in the keynote.
Jonathan: We already know about some of the pretty significant accessibility changes that are coming to Apple’s platforms because they announced that in conjunction with WWDC. We don’t know yet what features are being kept for new hardware that will be announced in a few months’ time. Can I just ask before we go, Anthony, what are you looking forward to in terms of the new accessibility features coming to Apple’s platforms?
Anthony: I’m interested in checking out the door detection thing certainly. It could be quite useful.
Jonathan: That’s going to be interesting, especially reading the signs and stuff like that. Mike, you made some comments on Mosen At Large about this, but how are you feeling about the new accessibility features?
Michael: I like the thought. I can’t do the door detection really because I don’t have LiDAR, but I am looking forward to seeing what they do to VoiceOver and the new voices, how that works, whether we get more English ones because I don’t understand any other languages but looking forward to that. I expect we’ll see a few new applications that aren’t immediately obvious, that come through as the actual operating systems arrive and people start digging into them.
Jonathan: Yes. There’ll be little UI things, little User Interface things that I think people always find in VoiceOver. There’s just something tucked away that Apple didn’t think is a big enough feature to make a big deal of but it may be a big deal to some of us and you often find things tucked away like that. What I really hope we get this year is an API to allow you to install the text-to-speech engine of your choice across the operating system. I want that so bad.
Anthony: That’s been on your wishlist for a very long time, dude.
Jonathan: Yes, it’s been on my wishlist and it would make such a difference. We had somebody on the last episode of this podcast, Episode 182, 181 rather, who made their point really well about a Bulgarian text-to-speech engine. He’s worried that Apple is going to go with the Nuance’s option because of their partnership with Nuance. If only we were allowed like you can on Android and have done for years, to install whatever voice you want operating system-wide, it would make the difference. Imagine if all of those Voice Dream Reader voices could be repackaged-
Michael: Oh, they have.
Jonathan: -so that you can use those Voice Dream Reader voices across the whole operating system. Yes, epic. Well, Heidi and Mike, and Anthony, thank you so much for your insight. Of course, we look forward to everybody else’s comments. If you have any views on what Apple has announced, what excites you, are you disappointed about something you wanted to see that didn’t come up, you can contact the podcast. Jonathan@mushroomfm.com is my email.
You can attach an audio clip or you can just write the email down. The listener line number is 864-60-MOSEN. We’ll play a big selection of your comments in episode 183. 864-606-6736. Thank you all very much. I really appreciate your time.
Michael: An absolute pleasure.
Anthony: Oh, you’re welcome. Fun as always.
Heidi: Yes. It’s always fun.
Jonathan: I’d love to hear from you, so if you have any comments you want to contribute to the show, drop me an email written down or with an audio attachment to Jonathan J-O-N-A-T-H-A-N@mushroomfm.com. If you’d rather call in, use the listener line number in the United States 864-606-6736.
Voiceover: Mosen At Large podcast.
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