I’ve been checking out Portal for the last couple of weeks, integrating it into my day and I have to say that it’s been helping me with with distractions and focussing in work.
The app is an interesting combination of features that are focussed on your wellbeing and letting you escape to different surroundings using an immersive soundscape.
What I’ve found is using the Focus mode, picking a portal (like Japan above) and listening to the environment lets me cut out background sounds and get to my task rather than being distracted by music. As much as I do love music, sometimes it’s just nice to sit in a calming environment when the pressure is on. It is also a good way to unwind after a rough or busy day, just close your eyes and relax. In total there are 44 portals in total so you should be able to find something that fits with your current mood.
The app is a breeze to use once you get used to each of the controls on screen and you can see that the UI is well laid out and a lot of thought has gone into the design. This also applies to the screen once you enter one of the portals, like in my screenshot above. You can choose to display the background with a time but I just like to have the beautiful wallpaper on my iPhone whilst I chill out. If I’m focussing I just ignore it and treat it like I’m listening to some background music.
Where this app really shines though is in its spatial audio support.
There are quite a few portals that have been created with spatial audio in mind and if you are using headphones capable of hearing it, it’s really an amazing experience. I found that after getting used to spatial audio soundscapes I didn’t want to go back to a static stereo one, they are that good.
The other area of that app that I have been using is the breathing exercises that are simple (non-guided) that for me as someone that hasn’t been able to stick to a daily practise are great when I just want to take a few minutes to calm down.
One area that I haven’t been able to test out however is the integration with smart lighting systems such as Hue, HomeKit and Nanoleaf. This looks a really good addition to the app and I imagine would go a long way to making you feel like you are there. If you have smart lighting then download and give it a go, I imagine it would be a great way to unwind (and let me know how you get on).
Portal is a wellbeing app with a difference in the way that it combines several methods of relaxing in one place, it’s created by a team that obviously cares about good app design, the environment around us and the wellbeing of its users.
The app is free with in app purchases ($9.99 a month or $49.99 a year).
I’ve been using the DuckDuckGo browser on my iOS devices since it launched but with iOS 15 I’ve completely switched over to Safari. There is only one reason I’ve done this – Private Relay.
Normally when you browse the web, information contained in your web traffic, such as your DNS records and IP address, can be seen by your network provider and the websites you visit. This information could be used to determine your identity and build a profile of your location and browsing history over time. iCloud Private Relay is designed to protect your privacy by ensuring that when you browse the web in Safari, no single party – not even Apple – can see both who you are and what sites you’re visiting.
I’ve stopped using a VPN now after my go to was purchased so whilst I was looking around for one I tried Private Relay. It’s not a VPN but enough for me to feel safer browsing the web. I’m actually finding it works really well too, no real performance issues at all.
Safari itself is challenging to use on macOS however but it appears Apple have adjusted the tabs again and hopefully it means the end of me still being confused about which tab is active. It’s nice having both my Mac and iPhone in sync, something I missed with DuckDuckGo.
This is a really great overview by Jason Snell at Six Colors. Photos has had a nice update, although I can’t get it to identify points of interest or objects for me. Maybe it’s because I’m using an iPhone 11?
I’ve been so busy that I forgot iOS 15 is out today. I’m currently on iOS 14 and I think I’ll be staying on it for a couple of days to check in on the public release from afar. I did test the release master beta from Apple and it wasn’t great for me. The Settings app in particular was crashing when tapping on the music settings.
iOS 15 itself isn’t a must have day one release in my opinion so for me I’ll be holding off and keeping an eye on the feedback from social media or the Apple news outlets.
I’ll most likely give it a day and then install just to be sure.
I got this email through from Apple, like a lot of people encouraging them to try out the beta program. In my experience it’s pretty solid but unless you’re happy with how to downgrade to iOS 14 and not lose any data I’d wait. The latest beta is probably the best one (you’d like to think so) and for me battery life is actually better on my iPhone 11 than the current public iOS 14 release.
Going through an old hard drive I was able to find my Home Screen from various old iOS versions. Back in 2010 I was using an iPhone 3GS and always tended to jump on the beta releases. Here’s a few screenshots I found from iOS 4 and the beta back in 2010.
Here’s what my Home Screen looked like. Check out the icons for iPod (now music), voice memos and camera. Might be nostalgia but I love these older app icons. I’m also reminded here that I read on that small screen, see the Marvel app.
Folders also looked cool, but more character than what we see today. iOS 4 was where we got the first option to be able to use them.
Here’s what folders looked like, I loved that background being used.
We also got the first iteration of background running for audio, location and calls and a first iteration of multitasking.
Double click the home button and up this popped.
Check out the iPod app, much more intuitive in my opinion.
Ah, the Lock Screen… this is the last one I could find. iOS 4 was a pretty big release bringing the foundations of what we have today with folders and a first stab at multitasking and running audio in the background. We’ve come a long way but I do miss some of the more intuitive parts of an old iOS release, like the iPod app with it’s larger shuffle button. I’m not saying I want to go back but maybe I’d like less minimalism these days.
These Notes apps let you organise your thoughts and reference materials with more flexibility than the iOS Notes app.
Apple Notes got some improvements in iOS 13 but it still has limitations. Third party apps can give you better organisation, formatting and a better interface. The problem is that there are a whole host of note taking apps out there.
The following 3 apps will help you decide which might be the best app for you.
Notability is a powerful and intuitive app for those that like to organise their notes and have lots of flexibility within them.
The strength of Notability is the flexibility you get when creating a note, it can contain handwriting, photos and typing. This is also a great app if you are working with others on ideas and the PDF export allows for easy sharing. You can also save an entire web page directly into Notability from Safari – great for keeping recipes.
Finally with iCloud sync and automatic back up to various online storage providers like Dropbox and Google Drive you can be sure that your data will be kept safe.
Download: Notability for iOS ($8.99, optional in app purchase for themes).
Craft is a fairly new app and although it may seem overwhelming to start with you can use it as simple or complex as you need. It’s an app that can be used for taking notes that include web links, text, sketches, images, code snippets and has its own sync service but where it really shines is with organisation and integration.
It has an inbox (a starting place for your note if you aren’t sure what to do with it yet), flagging (giving you quick access to a note) and folders for organisation. You can also link two notes together, meaning you can copy one note and put it into another – you’d be amazed how often this feature is forgotten.
Finally, calendar integration is a standout feature where you can see your appointments in a single view, which not only looks great but you can add a note to each day. For instance a daily running to do list or for you to write down something you might want to reflect on later, a bit like a journal entry.
Download:Craft for iOS (Free, subscription available).
Bear is a beautiful looking app that offers a lot of options for those that want to focus on their content and organisation. It’s a simple intuitive place to write your notes and with the addition of tagging to organise you can quickly get your set up exactly how you want it. There are also plenty of theme options to get it looking just right and iCloud sync.
It’s very much sold as a markdown editor but don’t let that put you off as you can use it for general note taking that includes sketching and photos.
Download: Bear for iOS (Free, subscription available)
I’ve written a few things on iOS 15 and this post from MacStories explains the changes better than I can. I agree with most of this post and need to get my teeth into Focus, I’ve not even set it up yet.