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Apple's Journal app is both smart and basic

The Apple Journal app's simplicity initially left me feeling like I might be missing something. The app comprises a single screen with a reverse-chronological timeline of journal entries and a prominent plus button at the bottom. Tapping the plus button opens an overlay with options to create a new entry or respond to reflection prompts like "What could you do to make someone's day better this week?" or "Write about a time you found an unexpected solution to a hard problem."

Apple's Journal app is both smart and basic

When creating an entry, you can include photos, videos, voice memos, or location data. While viewing the timeline, you can filter entries by photos or those you've bookmarked. The app can also remind you to journal daily. Overall, it's a straightforward, basic journaling app, which aligns with what one might expect from Apple.

The Apple Journal app, included in iOS 17.2 and currently in public beta, appears to have two primary reasons for its existence. First, it reflects Apple's commitment to health and wellness, as journaling can be beneficial. Second, it leverages your phone's unique capabilities to recognize and prompt you to add "Moments" based on various signals it gathers, such as your location, interactions, and media consumption habits. However, the precise workings of this feature remain somewhat mysterious.

Apple plans to make this technology, referred to as a "suggestions API" for Moments, available to third-party journaling apps. All the processing occurs on your device, with the app receiving information about Moments only when you choose to add them. While this approach offers control over what data is used, it also poses challenges, such as potentially surfacing unwelcome memories.

As for my experience with Journal, I haven't yet received any Moments suggestions, so I can't comment on how well it functions. It will be interesting to observe Apple's handling of the moment-generating process and how third-party apps integrate the suggestions API. Third-party apps with access to SiriKit, CallKit, or HealthKit may also feed data into suggestions.

Another way to add content to Journal is through the iPhone's share sheet, which allows you to save links and media with rich source links. While the intentions are commendable, the execution is not flawless, as it may not always recognize subscription status. Journal is primarily focused on ease of creating and reviewing entries, lacking features like tags or folders. It might serve as an entry-level journaling app but is unlikely to sway dedicated users of existing journaling apps.

The broader question raised is how well our devices truly know us and whether we want our phones to have this level of understanding. This leads to a deeper contemplation of the future of AI and our role in shaping it.

Apologies for delving into existential territory; it tends to happen when journaling a lot.

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