iOS 13 finally lets you (kinda) replace Apple’s default apps

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Launch any camera app from the lock screen with this incredibly useful iOS 13 trick.
Launch any camera app from the lock screen with this incredibly useful trick.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

In iPadOS and iOS 13, you can kinda replace the stock Apple apps on your iPhone or iPad. For instance, anytime you tap the Mail icon, Spark could launch instead. Or, and this is probably the most useful, when you tap the lock-screen shortcut for the Camera app, you could launch Halide instead.

This isn’t proper app replacement, but it is a pretty wild trick for iOS devices. We use a new feature in Shortcuts to make the magic happen. And for the Camera app, it works great.

Portrait mode remains miraculous — but frustrating — on iPhone XS [Opinion]

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Portrait Mode is great, until it’s not. Fix failed focus with Focos.
When it works, Depth Control lets you dial in just the right amount of blur.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

Portrait mode on the iPhone XS is pretty amazing — when it works. I gave it a good, hard workout after the device’s launch in September 2018, and found it to be an almost miraculous trick to fake the optical depth of photos taken on a bigger camera.

But after using it for half a year, does Portrait mode still seem so great? No. While it’s still just as impressive, sometimes it’s so frustrating to use that I just give up, quit the Camera app, and don’t bother to take a photo at all.

Brilliant iPhone camera app takes long exposures without tripod

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Capturing the path of light and motion with Spectre Camera.
Ex-Spectre the unexpected.
Photo: Spectre

Halide, an iOS camera app that entered a flooded photo app category in 2017, quickly rose above most of the others as a must-have tool for serious iPhone photographers.

The creators, wanting manual camera settings and a RAW shooting option, rolled out a new app this week bringing ease to the otherwise complicated task of light and motion painting with long exposures.

The new app, Spectre, requires no technical skill – or even a tripod – to bring the streams of light to urban scenics shot on iPhone.

HomeRun, Name Skillz, Digital D1, and other amazing apps of the week

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Awesome Apps
'Appy weekend.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

This week we find out that Halide has added yet another awesome new feature to the iPhone’s best camera app, that the AudioKit team has busted out yet another amazing (and retro) synthesizer, that Name Skillz exists to help you remember people’s names, and that HomeRun has scored — yes — a home run with its HomeKit-controlling Apple Watch app.

Halide fixes iPhone XR’s Portrait Mode

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Best iPhone photo accessories
Halide unlocks Portrait Mode on the iPhone XR.
Photo: Chroma Noir LLC

Apart from the screen, the big different between the iPhone XS and XR is the camera. The XS has two, and the XR only has one. This means that — like a one-eyed person — the XR camera can’t calculate the depth of objects in a scene, and therefore can’t use the Depth Blur feature to blur the background. It works around this by using clever facial recognition tricks to allow Portrait Mode with people, but that’s it.

Until now, that it. In its latest update, camera app Halide adds back this functionality to the new iPhone. That’s right. With Halide, you can take depth-effect pictures of anything with the iPhone XR.

5 great apps that bust out the bokeh on iPhone XS and XR

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The iPhone XS' new bokeh tool is just the beginning.
The iPhone XS' new bokeh tool is just the beginning.
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

The iPhone XS camera is pretty incredible. The device uses its two rear cameras, plus the A12 chip’s Neural Engine, to record such an accurate 3D map of the scene that you can adjust the background blur with a slider. But that depth map is useful for more than just blurring backgrounds. It can be used by other apps to:

  • Add realistic lights to a scene.
  • Choose any subject to be in focus, not just the one you picked when shooting.
  • Add custom background blurs.
  • Remove and replace backgrounds, like movie green-screen effects.

The iPhone XS is the gold standard for iOS cameras, but the XR manages some excellent tricks of its own. Despite having only one rear camera, the XR can still recognise people, and then use AI and the super-powerful A12 Neural Engine to separate out the person form the background. While this portrait matte isn’t as detailed as an iPhone XS depth map, it can in theory still be used to do many of the same tricks.

Today we’ll look at the best depth apps for the new iPhone XS, XR, and XS Max.

How to get extreme background blur in iPhone XS photos

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What's the fastest cake in the world?
What's the fastest cake in the world?
Photo: Charlie Sorrel/Cult of Mac

The iPhone XS Portrait Mode is the best thing to happen to iPhone photography in quite a while. It uses the XS’ dual cameras, plus the A12 chip’s Neural Engine, to work out how far away everything is in your photos. Then, it blurs everything in the background, just as if you used a fancy big camera.

But what if you want more blur? The XS’ Depth Control feature is very realistic, but maybe it’s a bit too realistic? Maybe you want to really wipe out that background with some extra blur. The good news is, there are some great apps that do that.