Sonos gets AirPlay 2 Support and Affinity Designer Comes to iPad

It’s an exciting day for users of Apple products today. Two announcements that caught my attention are highlighted below...

Affinity Designer Debuts on iPad as a Full-Featured Graphic Design Tool – MacStories:

Nearly one year ago, Serif released Affinity Photo for the iPad as a full-featured photo editing powerhouse. Unlike what companies such as Adobe do, where a Mac app like Photoshop is broken down into less powerful versions on iOS, Affinity Photo was brought to the iPad with no compromises whatsoever. Today, that same philosophy is bringing us Serif's second major iPad app: Affinity Designer.

Where Affinity Photo focuses on photo editing, Affinity Designer is a vector-based illustration tool. And with full support for the Apple Pencil, iOS 11's drag and drop, and system technologies like Metal, the app looks like the ultimate portable design studio.

For a limited time, Affinity Designer is available at a launch price of $13.99, 30% off the regular price of $19.99.

I have long been looking for something like Adobe Illustrator on the iPad. I have been very happy with OmniGraffle for designing seating charts, posters, flyers, and other graphics on iOS, especially because it syncs flawlessly to its Mac counterpart. For $13.99 I am going to be very tempted to give Affinity Designer a spin. Download it here.


Next up, Sonos!

Sonos Adds AirPlay 2 Support to Certain Speaker Models – MacStories

Sonos announced today that it has added AirPlay 2 support to compatible speaker systems. The update allows users to stream audio to the company’s Sonos One, Beam, Playbase, and the second generation Play:5 speakers from iOS apps that support AirPlay 2 of and from iTunes on a Mac.

I recently purchased a HomePod and have been looking forward to pairing its audio with my existing Sonos Playbar in the living room and Sonos Play:1 in the bedroom. Jason Snell wrote a great post for Macworld that gets into the all the details about how all of these different smart speakers play together.

Sonos update adds AirPlay 2 support | Macworld:

Perhaps most impressively, all AirPlay 2 speakers can play music in perfect synchronization. If you’ve got a HomePod or two and a compatible Sonos device, you can now select all those devices and play music through them, entirely in sync. Even better, if you’ve got incompatible Sonos devices and place them in the same group as an AirPlay 2-compatible Sonos device via the Sonos app, those speakers will also play synchronously. I was able to get music to play in sync throughout my house this morning, via a paired set of HomePods, a Play:5, and the (incompatible) Play:1 in my bathroom.

My two Sonos speakers are incompatible. So I can’t get too excited unless I buy a new Sonos One or Play:5. I do need one of these for the basement but it is a steep price to pay. Furthermore, it is a bummer that the old speakers cannot be controlled individually through the Apple home app, only as a group with a compatible Sonos.

I can bypass this problem in the living room, where my TV (with Apple TV attached) is running its audio through a Sonos Playbar. AirPlay allows a phone to send audio to an Apple TV on the same network, so if I want to control the Playbar individually, I just send audio to the living room Apple TV its attached to. The bedroom will be a different story, through I cannot imagine that many scenarios where I will need separate music or volume control in the bedroom and basement.



Apple Acquires Workflow!

I am still playing spring catch-up. A lot has happened in tech over the winter and early spring, a lot of it I wanted to write about but was lost in them sea of band concerts, assessments, conferences, and the like.

This one was very exciting for me...

Earlier this year, Apple acquired iOS productivity app Workflow (Download Link). You can read the general details of that acquisition here.

MacStories has a great write up of what this could mean for both Workflow and Apple here.

Workflow is one of the only reasons I can use an iPad to get work done. It is a standout app and anyone reading this should immediately stop and go download it from the App Store now that it is free. Workflow is at the core of a number of tasks I do on my iPad that are essential to teaching band on a daily basis. I wrote about it in my book, Digital Organization Tips for Music Teachers. Actually, one of the workflows I am most proud of including in the book is made in Workflow: by tapping a single button, a clean copy of a student seating chart is copied and exported into the Notability app where I can annotate it on half of the screen while I read my scores in forScoe on the other half of the screen. These annotated seating charts are later archived by date and used to help me remember information about my students and generate weekly rehearsal participation grades.

It's hard to say what this Apple acquisition could mean. I think the best case scenario is that the Workflow will get deeper access to the features of iOS, allowing even more powerful automations, perhaps even being rebranded "Automator" like the macOS app that functions similarly. Time will tell. In the meantime, go download Workflow!

Limitations streaming iTunes music in the cloud with third party apps

Couldn't agree more with this post from MacStories. The original story they are covering is this post from the app developer Steamclock about limitations that third party apps have when accessing iTunes tracks stored in the cloud.

From Steamclock's blog post:

According to our latest stats, 17% of Party Monster users have been unable to play a song in their iTunes library, and 22% of WeddingDJ users have tried to cue a playlist that has so many unplayable tracks that we need to display a warning. While it’s a miracle that we’ve been able to maintain a 4 star rating through all of this, it’s not going to last if we stay the course.

Given all of this, we have a couple options. We could double down and go pro, catering to serious DJs who can load DRM-free music into our sandbox. Pro DJs who use our apps often have a large licensed library of songs, and won’t rely on iTunes Match or Apple Music.

Alternatively, we could steer towards the mass market, drop crossfading support, and regain full iTunes compatibility. We could also put in the work to add support for Spotify or other competing streaming services, and focus our apps less on playback features and more on having a great UI for queueing.

I am glad this problem is getting some publicity. I have been frustrated with the fact that iTunes tracks can't stream from third party apps for years.