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Thursday, November 30, 2023

Apple’s Journal app is form of sensible — and form of fundamental

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The Apple Journal app is so easy that, at first, it felt like I used to be lacking one thing. The entire app is only one display screen: a reverse-chronological timeline of your journal entries, with a giant plus button down on the backside. I hit the plus, and an overlay appeared with some choices: faucet “new entry” on the prime, or reply to one in every of Journal’s “reflection” prompts. “What might you do to make somebody’s day higher this week?” one in every of them asks. “Write a couple of time you discovered an surprising resolution to a tough drawback,” reads one other. 

While you’re making a journal entry, you possibly can add images and video, file a voice memo, or log a location related along with your entry. While you’re trying on the timeline, you possibly can filter to see solely the entries with images, or the extra-special entries you’ve bookmarked, however that’s about it. You may have the app remind you to journal day by day, too. I don’t know what I anticipated from an Apple-made journaling app, actually, however it is rather a lot… only a journaling app — and a fairly fundamental one at that.

So far as I can inform, there are two causes the Journal app, which is coming to iPhone users in iOS 17.2 and is in public beta proper now, exists in any respect. The primary is that well being and wellness are vital to Apple as an organization, and there’s numerous proof to recommend that usually journaling ultimately is an efficient factor. The second is that, in a variety of methods, your cellphone is definitely the excellent place to maintain a journal — as a result of it might probably form of do it for you.

The large thought behind Apple Journal is that your cellphone can study to acknowledge what Apple calls “Moments.” It could possibly take a look at the place you had been, who you FaceTimed with, what number of movies you took, and different alerts that solely your cellphone has entry to and deduce that this was in all probability one thing you’d wish to keep in mind and revisit. Your cellphone is the one system that each is aware of you had been on the cellphone along with your boyfriend for an hour and that instantly afterward you listened to 11 straight Dashboard Confessional songs. It is aware of that you simply hit a private file in your marathon coaching at the moment and that you simply completed the run at a sick view from the highest of a mountain. With entry to all that data, Journal might, in idea, begin to put issues collectively and immediate you to not solely add them to your private timeline but additionally take a second to replicate on them. Apple is coy about precisely the way it all works, although, and precisely what alerts matter and the way.

While you write an entry, you possibly can embrace footage and video, plus location data and voice memos.
Picture: David Pierce / Apple

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This can be a actually intriguing thought, particularly as a result of Apple is making this tech — which Apple calls a “recommendations API” for Moments — accessible to different third-party journaling apps as properly. All of the machine studying and processing occurs in your system, and the app you’re utilizing solely will get details about Moments when you choose one so as to add. (The one a part of Journal that isn’t fully native is the iCloud backups, that are themselves encrypted.) 

It’s additionally, I ought to say, a complete minefield. Keep in mind when Fb’s On This Day characteristic used to indicate individuals horrible reminiscences they’d somewhat not relive and revisit? Journal has entry to much more knowledge and will do even worse. As my colleague Victoria Tune wrote back in June, “In case your digicam roll is like mine, it’s a jumble of joyful, serene, infuriating, useless, mundane, and melancholy moments. It’s messy as a result of life is messy. And if the Journal app really takes a web page from Apple’s Recollections characteristic, there’s a superb probability it’s going to tactlessly ambush you with reminiscences you both don’t need or aren’t able to see.”

You get some management over what knowledge Journal makes use of to recommend Moments, and it’s also possible to simply flip them off fully if you’d like. However these are all on / off switches, and it’d be good to see Apple provide some extra fine-grained controls over time.

To date, I can’t vouch for the way any of it really works as a result of I’ve solely been utilizing Journal for a few days, and it hasn’t as soon as supplied me a second to incorporate. (And I’ve been taking moody footage and listening to Taylor Swift the entire time!) But it surely’s going to be fascinating to see how Apple handles the second producing course of and the way and whether or not different apps select to combine the recommendations API. Third-party apps received’t have the ability to insert their stuff straight into the Moments system, however knowledge from any app that makes use of SiriKit, CallKit, or HealthKit might funnel into recommendations as properly. Once more, the precise alchemy behind Moments stays considerably mysterious. 

Journal is robust on privateness however mild on how a lot management it offers you over recommendations.
Picture: David Pierce / Apple

The opposite method to get issues into Journal is thru the iPhone’s share sheet. It can save you hyperlinks and media from the online or numerous different apps, and Journal saves a wealthy hyperlink again to the supply. The intentions right here appear to be good (I can play a Spotify monitor proper in my Journal timeline), however the execution is off in spots. (It doesn’t understand I’m a subscriber and simply begins the free preview.) On the whole, Journal undoubtedly received’t substitute your bookmarking app or read-later service, neither is it attempting to; this app is so centered on being a straightforward place to create and evaluation journal entries that it received’t even let you’ve tags or folders. 

No less than for now, I think Journal may attraction as an entry-level journaling app however is just not prone to persuade many individuals to dump their present diary. (I’m a longtime Day One consumer, and nothing in Journal makes me wish to change.) It’s completely true that your cellphone is aware of you not like every other system you’ve, and Apple’s in all probability proper to try to work out the way to use that to enhance your life. 

However I take into consideration all of the occasions my Apple Watch yells at me to face whereas I’m sick in mattress, and I ponder how properly my units truly do know me. And I ponder how I really feel about the concept that my cellphone even might get it proper. Are we actually only a assortment of the stuff we do on our screens, and is it our accountability to show our units to know us higher? Is that the AI future we’re in search of? 

Sorry to get all existential on you there. Tends to occur after I’ve been journaling quite a bit.

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