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Six Colors

A feed by Jason Snell and Dan Moren


They live! New iPad Air and iPad Mini announced

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-18 13:20, modified at 17:43

It’s a big day for the iPad line, which gets a new iPad Air and iPad mini replacing the old 10.5-inch iPad Pro and the very old iPad mini:

Apple today introduced the all-new iPad Air in an ultra-thin 10.5-inch design, offering the latest innovations including Apple Pencil1 support and high-end performance at a breakthrough price….

Apple today also introduced the new 7.9-inch iPad mini, a major upgrade for iPad mini fans who love a compact, ultra-portable design packed with the latest technology… The advanced Retina display with True Tone technology and wide color support is 25 percent brighter and has the highest pixel density of any iPad, delivering an immersive visual experience in any setting. And with Apple Pencil1 support, the new iPad mini is the perfect take-anywhere notepad for sketching and jotting down thoughts on the go. The new iPads are available to order starting today and in stores next week.

The new iPad Air starts at $499 and the iPad mini at $399, joining the $329 iPad at the lower end of Apple’s increasingly differentiated iPad product line. Obviously they’re using Touch ID rather than Face ID and have larger bezels than the iPad Pro, but they’re also a fraction of the price. (Like that $329 sixth-generation iPad, both models support the first-generation Apple Pencil and the Logitech Crayon. The iPad Air is also the first non-Pro iPad to support Apple’s Smart Keyboard. I suspect it’ll fit many other 10.5-inch iPad Pro accessories, and am looking forward to trying it out with Brydge’s 10.5-inch keyboard.)

This is essentially Apple’s answer to the complaint that the iPad Pro is too expensive: There are other, very capable iPads in the product line that cost a lot less than the iPad Pro. Potential iPad buyers are free to choose accordingly.

Apple responds to Spotify

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-15 15:12

In an unsigned statement, Apple has rebutted Spotify’s claims of unfair treatment by suggesting that it’s the music service that wants to avoid the rules that everybody else plays by. The company also took aim at Spotify’s treatment of artists, though it claimed that the company is “suing music creators” when the truth is, of course, a little more complex.

While Apple’s arguments are largely compelling, especially in terms of Spotify essentially wanting all the benefits of the App Store platform without having to pay anything, this issue still isn’t a black-and-white case of one side right, the other side wrong. Apple isn’t an altruistic company anymore than Spotify is, and even if Spotify is in the wrong here, it still may be time for Apple to rethink its 30 percent rate.

Apple WWDC19: What's in store for iOS macOS, watchOS, and tvOS (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-15 14:55

We’re teetering on the edge of an embarrassment of Apple riches. The company’s March event is just over a week away, but with this week’s official announcement of the 2019 Worldwide Developers Conference, many eyes are already fixed on that point, three months from now.

Whatever comes our way in March, it will almost certainly pale in comparison to WWDC, which is probably the most significant event in Apple’s calendar. Yes, the September launch of new iPhones and attendant devices may get more attention, but WWDC is where the company sets its agenda for the year—or years—to come.

Though it’s still a few months away, it’s never too early to start thinking about where Apple may be looking to focus the priorities of its many and varied platforms.

Apple sets WWDC for June 3-7

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-14 17:56, modified at 17:58

Apple’s just inviting everyone to everything now. On Thursday Apple unveiled its Worldwide Developers Conference site, with the dates we all suspected—June 3-7 in San Jose. So get ready for an interesting keynote on the morning of Monday, June 3!

Apple vs. Spotify: who's really right? (Tom's Guide)

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-14 05:18

Spotify’s dispute with Apple over how iOS users access the music service boiled over this week, as Spotify filed an antitrust complaint and launched a special marketing site to put pressure on Apple to change its business practices — or have them be changed by government regulators.

In many ways, this is an old story. For several years, Apple and Spotify have been jousting over Apple’s App store rules. Apple claims that Spotify doesn’t want to follow the rules that Apple has instituted to protect its users, while Spotify says that Apple is just trying to prop up its own second-rate services rather than straight-up competing.

Who’s right? The truth, it will not surprise you, is somewhere in the middle.

The next version of Coda won't be Coda

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-13 21:23

Panic, maker of fine software like Transmit and Coda, is preparing a major update to its soup-to-nuts web development app, Coda. But there’s a catch:

Yes, the next Coda is so different it won’t even be called Coda.

Frankly, we were worried that developers may have tried Coda in the past, decided it wasn’t for them, and written the app off forever. This new version is so new, it deserves a fresh start.

And then, incredibly, a new Coda arrived on the scene — a reimagined document at coda.io — and we reached an agreement to let them have the name. They’re Coda now. And we’re free to look to the future.

So the next Coda won’t be “Coda”. So what will it be?

The end of an era, but also the beginning of an era! Panic’s software is always excellent, and I expect that this new Coda, by any other name, will smell as sweet. 1

  1. Don’t smell your software. ↩

(Podcast) Clockwise #285: Hey, It's Capitalism!

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-13 18:21, modified at 20:17

This week, on the 30-minute show that’s springing forward, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests and superstar Panic designers Christa Mrgan and Neven Mrgan to discuss subscription service fatigue, fragmentation in the Internet of Things, Spotify’s allegations against Apple, and whether we’ve lost our sense of wonder when it comes to tech. Plus a transportation-themed bonus topic.

The web at 30: Apple's place in history (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-13 17:13

This week marks the 30th anniversary of the web, or at least the date that Tim Berners-Lee made a proposal at the Swiss particle physics lab CERN involving the creation of a hypertextual system that would end up becoming the web as we know it today.

The history of web browsers on Apple devices takes a lot of twists and turns. Fortunately, I’ve been around for most of them—in fact, my first magazine cover story ever was in July 1996 about the first big browser war. You might be surprised just how much impact Apple has had on the development of the web itself.

(Podcast) Rebound 229: Go Back to Making Dinosaur Movies

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-13 14:45

This week, on the irreverent tech show where someone apparently talks about their Mac mini too much, we run down a variety of topics, including expectations for Apple’s upcoming “It’s show time!” event, Spielberg’s weird comments about Netflix, the rumors around Apple’s streaming service, Elizabeth Warren’s call to break up tech giants, and, most importantly, Mophie’s battery pack for the new Palm phone.

Ben Thompson on Elizabeth Warren's tech breakup proposal

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-12 15:48, modified at 16:46

Today Ben Thompson takes apart presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s proposal to break up big tech companies, and then starts to put it back together. It’s a great, in-depth piece and I recommend that you read the whole thing, but I want to call out a little bit about Apple:

…do consumers not matter at all here? Is Senator Warren seriously proposing that smartphone be sold with no apps at all? Was Apple breaking the law when they shipped the first iPhone with only first-party apps? At what point did delivering an acceptable consumer experience out-of-the-box cross the line into abusing a dominant position? This argument may make sense in theory but it makes zero sense in reality.

What is even more striking, though, is that the App Store does have a massive antitrust problem: it is not Apple unfairly competing with app developers, it is Apple unfairly imposing massive complexity and extracting 30% of revenue with its contractual requirement, enforced by App Review, that developers use Apple’s payment mechanism…

The important takeaway for this article, though, is the degree to which Senator Warren missed the point: there is significant consumer benefit both to having preinstalled apps and also to Apple controlling the installation of apps. There is a big benefit to suppliers (app developers) as well: the app market on PCs died in large part due to security concerns, which Apple obviated with the App Store to the tremendous benefit of every participant in the ecosystem. Senator Warren’s proposal would make the App Store worse for everyone.

When I saw Nilay Patel’s brief interview with Warren I had the same reaction—she seems to be suggesting “solutions” to things that aren’t problems, all in the name of sticking it to the big guys. As Thompson writes, “Tech is a means, not an end, but Senator Warren’s approach presumes the latter. That is why she proposes the same set of rules for the sale of toasters and the sale of apps, and everything in between.”

Read through Thompson’s piece and you’ll see him identify numerous areas where giant tech companies could be restrained, including their voracious acquisitions of any company that might possibly threaten them in the future. This is the trick with stuff like this—a lot of people can agree that the tech industry is out of control, but when it comes to legislation, it’s all about the details. Thompson makes a forceful argument that Warren has many of the details wrong.

Apple Event confirmed for March 25

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-11 19:33, modified at 19:35

Get ready… in two weeks’ time Apple will be having an event in Cupertino at the Steve Jobs Theater that will presumably feature new subscription services, including an introduction of its new video service.

Set your calendars: March 25, 10 am PDT.

(Podcast) Upgrade #236: Whatever Keyboard Pleases Me

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-11 18:25

Disney opens the vault for its streaming service, we rank our own MacBook Hierarchy of Needs, and Jason goes against Myke’s advice and records some podcasts using only an iPad.

(Sponsor) The Bayern Agenda

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-11 15:50

Hey readers, Dan here. Never thought I’d see the day when I was sponsoring our own blog, but I just wanted to let you know about my latest novel, The Bayern Agenda.

Simon Kovalic, the Commonwealth’s premiere covert operative, has a problem. The rival Illyrican Empire is trying to make a deal with Bayern, a planet-sized corporation that’s one of the galaxy’s financial hubs. That’s not good for the Commonwealth, and it’s not good for Kovalic. But, to make matters worse, he’s injured on a mission, and command of his team of operatives is handed over to Lieutenant Commander Natalie Taylor…his ex-wife. So now he’s got two problems.

But when Kovalic’s boss tells him that the situation’s even more complicated than they thought, it’s up to him to find the team before they’re all caught or killed. And the problems, well, they just keep coming.

Find out what happens in The Bayern Agenda, available now at fine booksellers everywhere.

Three improvements Apple should make to its Mail app on iOS and macOS (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-08 13:35

When people roll out wish lists of things they wish Apple would do to its products, they’re often focused on brand new features. We all like new features, sure, but part of me worries that while the focus is on the shiny, the basics—the software that we’re all using everyday—gets ignored. In particular, I’m really ready for Apple to tackle that old standby: Mail.

I know: email’s dead, supplanted by a myriad of other means of digital communication. Except, for many of us, email is still something that we’re unavoidably attached to when it comes to corresponding with people, signing up for accounts, and archiving or doing a to-do list.

Apple expended a lot of effort developing tools in iOS 12 that let us spend less time on our devices by preventing us from using them at certain times. But what about all that time where we are using our smartphones, tablets, and computers? Maybe there are features that can help us be more efficient, and treat our time with the respect it deserves.

Encyclopedia Netflixia: Translating Warner Media's Robert Greenblatt

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-07 22:10, modified at 22:11

So the other day Robert Greenblatt, the new chairman of Entertainment at Warner Media, where he’s in charge of HBO, TNT, TBS, truTV, and the forthcoming Warner Media streaming service, said something to NBC’s Dylan Byers about Netflix that got people tittering:  “Netflix doesn’t have a brand,” he said. “It’s just a place you go to get anything — it’s like Encyclopedia Britannica. That’s a great business model when you’re trying to reach as many people on the planet as you can.”

In the aftermath I’ve seen lots of folks stepping up to defend Encyclopedia Britannica(!) and Netflix. Maybe Greenblatt’s statement isn’t the most artfully worded. If you want to point and laugh, Nelson style, you can. Netflix is wildly successful… it’s not just a brand, it’s a powerful cultural force, the kind that can fill thrift stores after the launch of a show about de-cluttering, when it’s not winning multiple Academy Awards.

But I think I understand what Greenblatt is getting at. In fact, I wrote something similar earlier this week at Macworld:

Apple’s not Netflix and it isn’t going to be. There’s nothing wrong with Apple’s executives having a clear vision about what the vibe of their content should be. For Apple’s video service to be successful, it should be a set of programs that fit a particular worldview. The best networks have an identity and their programmers know exactly what it is.

Netflix tries to be everything to everybody, and spends tens of billions of dollars to do that. So far, as I can tell, Apple’s not going that direction. It needs to choose. Apple’s video service will benefit from a clear brand identity, and if that brand identity is bright, optimistic, and broadly appealing, with standards more like broadcast TV than premium cable, that won’t preclude it from finding an audience.

In other words, unless you spend tens of billions of dollars on original content over the course of a decade—and other than Netflix, the only other player even close to that level right now is Amazon—you can’t be Netflix. Netflix’s target audience is everyone. It casts the widest possible net. It is launching every kind of show and movie, by the dozen, every single week of the year.

Smaller players just entering the streaming market are not going to be capable of out-Netflixing Netflix for years, if ever. Instead, they all need to pick their spots carefully, and spend their money wisely. New streaming services must define who they are, what kind of content they’re going to offer, and market themselves to a specific potential audience.

Greenblatt doesn’t seem to be insulting Netflix to me. He’s praising, or at least acknowledging, that Netflix is playing a different game—and he’s planting seeds now to fend off any comparisons between his streaming service and Netflix later. Nobody’s going to be matching Netflix—not Warner Media, not Apple, not even Disney—for years to come. They will all lose a comparison to Netflix. The only winning move is not to play.

(Podcast) Download #94: From Switzerland to You

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-07 19:25, modified at 19:26

Fitbit unveils new low-cost fitness trackers, Apple goes hiring in Qualcomm’s backyard, Zuck has a vision for private conversations, and Stephen Hackett and I bring in our Special Automotive Correspondent Casey Liss to discuss electric car announcements from the auto show in Geneva.

Prioritizing the MacBook Hierarchy of Needs

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-07 02:56, modified at 19:18

MacBook 2015 keyboard
The keyboard that started it all.

This week on the Accidental Tech Podcast, John Siracusa floated the concept of a MacBook Hierarchy of Needs, a priority list of features for the next time Apple redesigns the MacBook line, as is rumored to happen later this year.

It’s a fun thought experiment, because it requires you to rank your wish list of laptop features. That’s important, because if I’ve learned anything in this wacky world of ours, it’s that you can never get everything you ask for, so you’ve got to prioritize.

The ATP hosts all made a “good keyboard” their top priority, an idea that would’ve been surprising a few years ago but now is almost a given. Yes, of course, Apple laptops need to be fast and reliable and have great displays and good battery life, but the past few years’ worth of MacBooks have made a lot of people realize the truth: a bad/unreliable laptop keyboard isn’t something you can really work around if you’re a laptop user.

This is why a lot of nice-to-have-features, like SD card slots, have to fall way down the hierarchy of needs. Any feature that can be rectified with an add-on adapter falls immediately to the bottom of the list. You’re stuck with a laptop keyboard forever, and if you’re committed to the Mac and every single Mac laptop that’s sold uses the exact same keyboard, there’s nowhere to run.

As I wrote back in 2017:

Apple’s mistake isn’t that it designed a clever new keyboard that decreases travel while increasing tactile feedback in order to make the MacBook ultra thin—it’s that it made a keyboard without broad appeal and then forced it into all of its new laptop designs. I love Apple’s tendency to make bold design decisions, but as the single hardware vendor on the Mac platform, Apple’s designers have a responsibility to create features that don’t leave users with nowhere to turn. Better to make a keyboard that nobody loves (but everyone can use) than something loved by a quarter of users, met with indifference by half, and despised by the remaining quarter.

If Apple designed a weird keyboard, or mouse, or trackpad for an iMac, it would be annoying, but you could just buy a replacement from a third party. You can add a DVD drive or a SD card reader or any other reader for a media type Apple has deemed uncool via USB. But a laptop’s keyboard is fundamental to its identity. It’s not the place for bold new directions, it’s a place for boring and reliable. Apple and its users are still living down a decision made several years ago now.

It’s a little unfair for me to even attempt to create my own MacBook Hierarchy of Needs, in large part because I no longer travel with a Mac laptop, instead opting for an iPad. But I think that decision says something about my priorities. My iPad isn’t limited to an Apple-supplied keyboard. I can use Apple’s Smart Keyboard Folio, or a Brydge laptop-style keyboard (when they arrive this spring), or literally any other Bluetooth or USB keyboard I want. It’s a relief.

Still, if I were to rank a hierarchy of MacBook needs, it would start with all the things that users can’t change later, and that are important to laptop users. The keyboard, yes, and also the display. As the ATP hosts pointed out, there’s a possibility that this rumored 16-inch MacBook Pro might actually have a display capable of displaying true native Retina resolution, rather than the scaled default found on all Retina MacBooks.

I might love an SD card slot and a return of MagSafe and for Apple to keep the headphone jack around, but in the end, there are adapters that will bridge those gaps if need be. No adapter will solve the problem of an unreliable or unpleasant keyboard or replace a display. That’s where Apple must supply something that works for everyone—and if the needs of its users are varied, it should offer a variety of products that can fulfill those needs. A one-size-fits-all approach can work, but only if you’re really successful with the choices you make. With the 2015 MacBook keyboard design, Apple missed the mark—and still forced the result into every single new laptop it designed.

Here’s hoping that Apple has spent the last few years coming up with its own hierarchy of MacBook needs, and that it recognizes that it must tread lightly when it comes to the features that its users have no choice but to accept.

(Podcast) Clockwise #284: Fairy Facts and Unicorn Facts

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-06 20:04

This week on the 30-minute show that takes just half an hour, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Andy Ihnatko and Lory Gil to discuss devices we’ve repaired ourselves, smartphone features we’d trade thinness for, hardware security keys and the future of passwords, and privacy concerns for smart doorbells and cameras. Plus a daily-routine themed bonus topic.

Apple's management of its video service isn't a plot twist, it's business as usual (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-06 16:38

This week the New York Post published a report that fits into every narrative about Apple’s forthcoming video-streaming service: that Apple, a skittish tech company that’s not used to having its fate determined by content produced by outsiders, has been heavy-handed in providing feedback to the people creating TV series for Apple’s new service.

I believe there’s got to be some truth in there, but this is a more complicated story than perhaps the Post is interested in telling. (Shocker.)

(Podcast) Rebound 228: It's Not a Smart Dog

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-06 16:35

This week, on the irreverent tech show that only sometimes plugs sci-fi books, we replace one host with a Scottish developer and see if anybody can tell the difference. Then it’s Dan’s joke of foldable glass coming to life, a look into Apple’s latest acquisitions, what’s up with bug bounties (especially on the Mac), and James’s experience converting an iOS app into a Mac app.

Sponsor: The Bayern Agenda

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-05 20:44, modified on 2019-03-06 12:48

Hey readers, Dan here. Never thought I’d see the day when I was sponsoring our own blog, but I just wanted to let you know about my latest novel, The Bayern Agenda.

Simon Kovalic, the Commonwealth’s premiere covert operative, has a problem. The rival Illyrican Empire is trying to make a deal with Bayern, a planet-sized corporation that’s one of the galaxy’s financial hubs. That’s not good for the Commonwealth, and it’s not good for Kovalic. But, to make matters worse, he’s injured on a mission, and command of his team of operatives is handed over to Lieutenant Commander Natalie Taylor…his ex-wife. So now he’s got two problems.

But when Kovalic’s boss tells him that the situation’s even more complicated than they thought, it’s up to him to find the team before they’re all caught or killed. And the problems, well, they just keep coming.

Find out what happens in The Bayern Agenda, available now at fine booksellers everywhere.

(Podcast) Upgrade #235: Don't Be So Mean

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-04 19:45

This episode covers all the hot-button issues of the day! Is Apple micromanaging the content of its forthcoming video service? Is Face ID really superior to Touch ID? Will the arrival of iOS apps be good for the Mac? Why do British TV licence fees exist? Is the Netflix ‘Skip Intro’ button evil? Should Netflix be banned from the Oscars? Prepare your complaint emails now!

How the iPhone relates to the big releases at MWC 2019 (Tom's Guide)

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-03 16:46

Just as the spirit of Antoni Gaudí pervades Barcelona, Apple is everywhere at Mobile World Congress—and nowhere at all. Apple doesn’t go to industry trade shows, but it’s always present, as a bar for other companies to compare themselves to and differentiate themselves from. Apple won’t say that it does the same (even though I suspect Apple sends employees to Mobile World Congress every year just to look around), but that’s okay—we can do that job for them. So here’s a collection of observations about how Apple relates to the announcements we’ve seen in the last week, both from Barcelona and from Samsung’s Unpacked event in San Francisco.

Bad AppleScript: Use Hazel to auto-compress Logic projects

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-01 22:21, modified at 22:22

My office file server still has a lot of free space, but one of these days I’m going to fill it to the brim with old podcast project files. So I’ve been considering what to do to reduce the amount of archival data I’m storing. A while back, Marco Arment told me about his method of dealing with old project files—a shell script that uses the flac command-line utility to losslessly compress the giant uncompressed audio files that take up the bulk of space in any podcast project. The result is almost a 50 percent space savings!

In practical terms, after a few weeks (or in the case of a couple of podcasts I do, a year) I am not likely to need to go back to my original source files again. (And if I do, I’ve got a shell script to decompress all the archived files.) What I wanted to do was create an automated system in which projects would automatically get compressed after a waiting period. Since I store all my files on a Mac mini, I decided to use Noodlesoft’s Hazel to watch my folders and perform the automation using AppleScript.

This ended up being a multi-stage process. First, I needed to set up a Hazel rule that would look at a folder’s age and judge if it’s ready to be archived. This required me to extend Hazel’s functionality via a small script that would check to see if a folder actually contained any Logic projects—and would leave it alone if it didn’t.

This rule set only finds folders modified in the past three months that are not from this year—a weird restriction, but at the end of the calendar year I do an end-of-the-year clip show on The Incomparable, and so I don’t want to bother compressing old projects that are eligible for inclusion in that show. (This way, my Mac mini will have something to do on January 1 every year—namely compressing nine months worth of projects.)

The last item, though, is the tricky addition I needed to make—it runs an embedded AppleScript that looks inside the folder to ensure there’s at least one Logic project inside. That script looks like this:

set theStatus to false

tell application "Finder"
set file_list to entire contents of theFile 
repeat with anItem in file_list
    if kind of anItem is "Logic X Project" then
        set theStatus to true
    end if
end repeat
end tell

return theStatus

If the script returns a status of false, the folder gets passed over. Otherwise my script runs, and the folder’s contents get losslessly compressed. That complete script is here. Here are some highlights:

on hazelProcessFile(theFile)

Hazel requires you to wrap your AppleScript commands in an onhazelProcessFile handler. The target folder is set to the variable theFile.

set theProjectFiles to {}
set thisFile to {}
set theBigScript to ""
tell application "Finder"       
    set file_list to entire contents of theFile
end tell

This block defines some variables (two arrays and a string) and creates a new array, file_list, which contains every single file within the folder (including files in subfolders).

repeat with anItem in file_list
    set thisFile to getPath(anItem)

We’ll repeat through the entire list of files, and first use a subroutine called getPath to process each item. getPath, which I re-use across several scripts, returns the item’s file path (as a string), its filename stripped of all file extensions, and its file extension. This is useful for building commands to be executed via the do shell script command.

if (item 3 of thisFile) contains "logic" then
set end of theProjectFiles to (anItem as alias)

This variable, theProjectFiles, is collecting any Logic project files and adding them to an array. This will let me rename them later. (In a standalone version of the script, the lack of any Logic projects in a folder will cause the entire process to abort, but since Hazel has already verified the presence of a Logic project, I’m not going to worry about it here.)

else if (item 3 of thisFile contains "wav") or 
    (item 3 of thisFile contains "aif") or 
    (item 3 of thisFile contains "aiff") then   
        set theBigScript to (theBigScript & 
        "/usr/local/bin/flac -s -f -V --lax --best --delete-input-file '" & 
        (POSIX path of (anItem as alias)) & "' -o '" & 
        (POSIX path of (item 1 of thisFile)) & 
        (item 2 of thisFile) & "." & (item 3 of thisFile) & ".flac' ; ")
end if

This is the core of the script. If there’s an uncompressed audio file, we add a flac command to the variable theBigScript which will be executed at the end of this process. That command is:

/usr/local/bin/flac -s -f -V --lax --best --delete-input-file input file -o output file

It converts the input file to a FLAC file and deletes the original.

The variable theBigScript is a bunch of individual flac commands chained together via semicolons. Yes, I could just execute a do shell script command right here and save myself time, but for various reasons I need to wait until the end of the process to do them all in one batch, so that’s what I’m doing.

The rest of the sample script is just the renaming of all the Logic project files and the running of the big do shell script command.

Before (right) and after (left).

On a project I chose at random from my archive, the script compressed 11 project files and reduced a 5.72GB project folder to 2.57GB, 45 percent of its original size. On a couple of terabytes full of projects, it adds up fast.

I realize this is a very specific use case, but it’s worth considering how you can use Hazel and whatever scripting language you’re comfortable with to automate tasks on your Mac or, if you’re like me, a Mac server.

Star Wars as an infographic

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-01 15:13

A really clever and gorgeous retelling of the original Star Wars as a scrollable infographic. You’re going to be scrolling for a while. Apparently an Empire Strikes Back one is in the works as well.

(hat tip: Troy Boulware via Twitter)

How repairing an old Mac mini made me anticipate a new Mac Pro (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2019-03-01 13:01

I spent the better part of this week with my 2012 Mac mini in pieces in my living room, as I attempted to fix an issue with a dead drive. The problem that sparked it is still plaguing me, but the experience has given me both some appreciation for the way Apple used to do things, as well as the way it might once again.

This isn’t the first time I’ve taken apart a Mac—it’s not even the first time I’ve taken apart this particular Mac mini. Diving into hardware has always been a task that I enjoy. It’s fun not only to see how everything fits together (especially with Apple’s famously small tolerances) but also to realize that this amazing box, which can do all these cool things, is a clever combination of so many parts working in concert.

This particular Mac mini has the benefit of being a model that’s both reasonably easy to disassemble (assuming you have the right tools) and actually fairly upgradeable. Not all Macs, past or present, have quite that level of flexibility and lately the company’s products have seemed to trend towards the other end of the spectrum.

Apple dominates the podcast market. But for how long? (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-28 18:19, modified at 18:20

If you aren’t someone who is part of the podcast business (disclosure: I make the majority of my income from podcasting), you might not realize that Apple is the dominant player in the field. That dominance is driven by two factors: its definitive directory of podcasts and the built-in iOS Podcasts app, which drives the majority of podcast listening on the planet.

The slow shift from radio to on-demand audio continues, and companies are noticing. Investment in podcast companies is up, listening is growing, and the podcast advertising market continues to expand. Yet despite its dominance, Apple seems strangely uninterested in podcasting.

Gurman: Apple Watch sleep tracking in the works

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-28 16:41, modified at 16:47

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman reports that Apple’s working on sleep-tracking features for Apple Watch:

If the functionality is successful in the testing stages, the company plans to add it to the Apple Watch by 2020, according to one of the people. The company has released new versions of the Apple Watch each fall since 2016….

Before Apple launches new health- and fitness-related features for the Watch, it puts the functionality through rigorous testing at labs around its campus. The company also conducts in-house testing for new sensors on exercise equipment such as treadmills and bikes and has analyzed the Watch’s swim-tracking feature with testers at on-site swimming pools. The company also has testing chambers to mimic outside weather conditions and monitor users’ breathing and perspiration.

Apple Watch battery life has gotten so good that a special low-power sleep mode should be able to get it through the night. A quick charge while you’re in the shower would probably be enough to get you through the entire day. That was my experience when I used David Smith’s Sleep++, anyway.

I recently bought a Beddit sleep monitor, which goes on your mattress and syncs sleep data with Apple’s Health database. (The company is owned by Apple; I’ll write more about it soon.) There’s definitely a lot of opportunity to track sleep, perhaps via multiple devices working together. Right now Apple’s iOS bedtime features are pretty rudimentary. I’d love to see Apple’s approach to fitness motivation applied to getting a good night’s sleep, too. Sleep deficits are real, and if your devices know just how little you’ve been sleeping, it’s harder for you to stay in denial about it.

(Podcast) Clockwise #283: How This "Unfolds"

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-27 18:55

This week, on the 30-minute tech show that always winds up, Dan is joined by host emeritus Jason Snell, as well as special guests Florence Ion and Scholle McFarland, to discuss the tech we repair (vs. replace), how many cameras is too many for a smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy Fold vs. the Huawei Mate X, and what we use Siri for, if anything. Plus, an Oscar-themed bonus question.

(Podcast) Rebound 227: Replaced by Slackbot

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-27 15:32

This week, on the irreverent tech show that’s never met a while it hasn’t been, Dan recounts the odyssey of repairing his Mac mini, we discuss the newest foldable phone announcements from Samsung and Huawei, Lex explains his love of a Twitter bot, and we all chime in with our feelings on Caavo’s intelligent HDMI switcher.

(Podcast) Incomparable #448: A Bank the Size of a Planet

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-26 19:35, modified at 19:36

Dan Moren’s second novel, “The Bayern Agenda,” is coming soon to bookstores. He joins Jason to discuss how writing a novel is different the second time around, how the book connects (and doesn’t connect) with his previous novel, where he writes, and how he balances tech writing and podcasting and novel writing. And in a final lightning round, Dan answers some of the Internet’s most pressing Dan Moren-related questions.

7 Worlds Collide: A fan edits his hero using Final Cut Pro X

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-26 17:50, modified on 2019-02-28 20:20

Neil Finn is my favorite songwriter, and his 1980s band Crowded House is my favorite band of all time. (And their first album is my favorite album. And that album features my favorite song. You get the idea.) So it’s a pleasure to relay the story about how Finn’s 2009 “7 Worlds Collide - Live at the Powerstation” concert video managed to show up on iTunes and Amazon Prime Video this month.

It turns out that Jason Knox, a musician and video editor, is similarly a Neil Finn fan (as well as a Six Colors reader). Way back in 2013, Knox discovered that Finn was sitting on video footage from 7 Worlds Collide 1, an all-star concert in Auckland, New Zealand from 2009 featuring Finn and his sons; Johnny Marr of The Smiths; Ed O’Brien and Phil Selway of Radiohead; Jeff Tweedy, Pat Sansone and John Stirratt of Wilco; K.T. Tunstall; and a bunch of others. A studio album of songs was released in 2009, but the live concert remained unreleased. According to Finn, he had simply gotten too busy to find someone to edit all the footage into a coherent whole.

Knox figured he’d take a shot in the dark and offer to edit the concert together himself in Final Cut Pro X, and sent Finn a DM. After sending Finn some links to music videos he’d edited for a friend’s band, Finn must’ve figured Knox was worth a try—they got him the footage and he and Finn collaborated on the project via Dropbox.

“What kind of blows my mind about this whole thing is that we now live in a world where a fan can reach out directly to one of their musical heroes on social media, edit a two-an-a-half hour concert film on a home computer, collaborate via email and file sharing services from half way around the world, and then have the final film distributed via streaming to anyone,” Knox told me. “Neil deserves a lot of credit for his willingness to take a chance on me and send terabytes of footage from New Zealand to a stranger in Chicago.”

Knox’s professional work is largely focused on sound design, so there was a bit of a learning curve with the large, multi-camera project. “I learned a lot more about Final Cut Pro X while working on the concert video… I think it’s a great example of how FCPX has really put power into the hands of ordinary people who just want to accomplish a creative goal,” he said. “I think that Apple’s done an amazing job with FCPX-it’s designed so well that it allowed me to keep stumbling forward into a project like this, and I’m really grateful for that.”

Knox says he feels grateful that Finn was willing to take a chance on a fan, and that he feels lucky that he was able to do something “to say thank you for all the great music throughout the years.”

Since he began working on the project more than four years ago, Knox has had a chance to meet Finn a few times when his tours passed through Knox’s town. “It’s nice to know that the old adage ‘Don’t meet your heroes’ doesn’t always apply,” Knox said. “The entire project has been a pleasure from the start.”

The final concert—nearly two hours and 40 minutes long, featuring 32 songs from the Crowded House, Radiohead, Smiths, and Wilco songbooks as well as some originals and some covers of other artists (I’ll never get tired of “Throw Your Arms Around Me” by Hunters and Collectors), is now available on iTunes and Amazon Prime Video. And all thanks to one brave fan who offered to help make the project happen.

  1. The second go-round; the first one in 2008 was released as a video many years ago as “7 Worlds Collide Live at the St. James”, and also features Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam. ↩

Vlad Savov actually held a folding phone

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-25 23:16, modified at 23:28

Up until now they’ve been like Nigel Tufnel’s guitar—you can’t touch it and maybe you shouldn’t even look at it. But after a coming-out party at Mobile World Congress today, the foldable phone has been touched by members of the press. The Verge’s Vlad Savov got his hands on the Huawei Mate X:

The hands-on experience with this device confirmed and deepened all the feelings I had about it already: it’s a polished, refined physical design that gets us closest to the ideal of a foldable with minimal compromises. There are still huge questions about what the software UX will be like, how durable and scratch-resistant that wraparound display will be over the long term, and how long the battery will last if you use this 5G tablet to its fullest.

As Savov indicates, there are a lot of questions about this product category. Once these products ship, we’ll start to get answers. Is Huawei’s screen-on-outside approach superior to Samsung’s approach, which places a separate screen on the outside and the foldable screen on the inside? How should the hinges feel? How scratchable is the plastic screen? What design feels best in the hand? What’s more important, folded-out mode or folded-in mode?

Myke Hurley and I discussed a lot of this on today’s episode of Upgrade. And I made the point that we don’t really know if a large group of consumers are demanding a foldable phone—these products exist because we can make foldable OLED displays, but it doesn’t necessarily follow that we must make them. We may not know where the successful ecological niches are for products like this for some time yet. And of course, as always, there’s Apple—which has been experimenting with foldable-device designs internally for years, but has shown no sign of being convinced it’s hit on a product good enough to sell to the public.

The early, awkward phase of new technology is always fun to watch. In a year or two we will look back on these initial designs and groan at the awfulness of them, but right at this moment they’re like science fiction turned into reality. The only way to find out where this is all going is to keep watching.

(Podcast) Upgrade #234: The Ideological Folding Wars

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-25 22:19

Major players Samsung and Huawei have introduced expensive smartphones with foldable screens, but do their different approaches tell us anything about the future of the category? And where goes Apple fit in to the equation? We also take some time to contemplate the roll-out of Marzipan and what it means for the future of macOS.

A social-media site that actually rejects misinformation

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-22 18:06, modified at 18:16

As YouTube struggles with a pedophile scandal while rejiggering its algorithm to stop promoting conspiracy theories, and Facebook continues to be Facebook, you’d think that perhaps all social-media sites are just helpless in the face of the darkest parts of the human psyche. But Julia Carrie Wong of The Guardian reports that Pinterest has some clear guidelines and approaches to wipe out misinformation:

As pressure mounts on Facebook to explain its role in promoting anti-vaccine misinformation, Pinterest offers an example of a dramatically different approach to managing health misinformation on social media.

“We’re a place where people come to find inspiration, and there is nothing inspiring about harmful content,” said Ifeoma Ozoma, a public policy and social impact manager at Pinterest. “Our view on this is we’re not the platform for that.”

…In the case of vaccines, the fact that scientists and doctors are not producing a steady stream of new digital content about settled science has left a void for conspiracy theorists and fraudsters to fill with fear-mongering propaganda and misinformation.

Pinterest has broken search results and used image filtering to wipe out anti-vaccine misinformation on its service. It stands in contrast to Mark Zuckerberg’s continued mealy-mouthed statements about Facebook being a free market of ideas, in which ideas includes stuff like Holocaust denial.

Pinterest’s solution isn’t perfect, but at least they’re trying. Which is more than we’ve seen from Facebook and Google.

Simple sleep tracking with Shortcuts

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-22 15:00, modified at 15:33

Sleep Timer

I found myself curious recently as to whether I was getting enough sleep. There are, of course, a bunch of different ways to track sleep on your devices, including many third-party apps. Apple itself has even added a Bedtime feature that lets you remind yourself when it’s time for bed, and set an alarm for when to get up, then logs the time in the Health app.

Having tried that for a while, there were a few things that frustrated me about the approach. The goal of the Bedtime feature is to have you go to bed and get up at the same time, and that’s not something that I can always control. It’s very inflexible and prescriptive in a way that I found annoying, to the point that I eventually just stopped using it.

What I really wanted was for iOS to be a bit more intelligent. For example, it could realize that when I turn off my bedside light (which is a HomeKit-compatible Philips Hue bulb) I’m going to bed. And then, when I pick up my phone in the morning it could log that I’m awake, and store the resulting information in the Health app.

Alas, that functionality doesn’t exist. So I made it myself using a pair of Shortcuts.

The Bedtime shortcut, which can be triggered via the Shortcuts widget or Siri, sets the Good Night scene, turning off my bedroom lights, and then stores the current time in a text file in iCloud Drive.

The I’m Up shortcut, which I manually trigger when I wake up in the morning, reads the bedtime from that text file, gets the current time, and logs both into the Health app, along with calculating the difference between the two and providing a notification about how long I slept. 1 (Although the Get Time Between Dates action in Shortcuts sadly only lets you choose hours or minutes, and, in the former case, rounds it off.)

These Shortcuts are pretty simple, but they get the job done. On the off chance that other people are looking for something similar, I’ve included links above. The only alterations you’ll have to make are the HomeKit scene you want to set for Bedtime, if any. (You can also change the location or name for the bedtime text file; just remember to change it in both Shortcuts.)

Sleep well!

  1. When you log Sleep Analysis, it lets you choose whether this should be recorded as “Awake”, “In Bed,” or “Asleep.” Given that I can’t detect my sleep state, I went with the middle option.  ↩

What Apple can do to take Apple Pay to the next level (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-22 13:32

Oftentimes, new technologies can seem like solutions in search of problems. And while Apple isn’t above those kinds of moves, it also often finds itself ahead of the curve, pushing technologies with a lot of potential before the world at large is ready for them.

Apple Pay has, since its introduction, tended toward the latter. It’s a system that offers real tangible advantages over the status quo; the ability to pay with your iPhone or your Apple Watch offers not only more convenience than paying with a physical card but also bestows much needed security on every transaction. It’s become more and more popular, but there are still lots of places where you can’t yet use it.

Of course, much of Apple Pay’s adoption isn’t entirely under Apple’s control. Some retailers still need to update the hardware or software on their point-of-sale terminals, and the makers of some of those payment systems may have to add Apple Pay compatibility as well. While the recent addition of major chains such as Target and 7-11 help, Apple Pay still hasn’t trickled down to every local shop in my neck of the woods.

Adoption’s just one part of the equation. Even without Apple Pay being ubiquitous, there’s still room for Apple to improve what its contactless payment system offers.

(Podcast) Clockwise #282: Party Popper Dealy-Bob

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-21 12:43, modified at 12:44

This week, on the 30-minute tech show where you can hear the gears grinding, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Allison Sheridan and Kevin Clark to talk about improving Apple’s emoji discoverability, getting bogged down in finding the perfect tool for a task, vintage tech (and vintage games) we’d like to pick up where we left off, and the default app we’d redesign in iOS 13. Plus, a special Red Planet-themed bonus question.

Gurman: Marzipan roll-out a three-year process

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-20 20:27, modified at 20:31

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, who has been reporting on Apple’s “Marzipan” project to unify the application platforms of the Mac and iOS for years, has a new report today detailing the planned timeline of the effort:

Later this year, Apple plans to let developers port their iPad apps to Mac computers via a new software development kit that the company will release as early as June at its annual developer conference. Developers will still need to submit separate versions of the app to Apple’s iOS and Mac App Stores, but the new kit will mean they don’t have to write the underlying software code twice, said the people familiar with the plan.

In 2020, Apple plans to expand the kit so iPhone applications can be converted into Mac apps in the same way. Apple engineers have found this challenging because iPhone screens are so much smaller than Mac computer displays.

By 2021, developers will be able to merge iPhone, iPad, and Mac applications into one app or what is known as a “single binary.” This means developers won’t have to submit their work to different Apple App Stores, allowing iOS apps to be downloaded directly from Mac computers — effectively combining the stores.

This all makes perfect sense—that iPad apps are the easiest to convert to the Mac, that iPhone apps would follow, and that ultimately the goal is to allow developers to generate a single binary that would run on any device Apple makes.

Apple has said repeatedly that the Mac and iOS aren’t going to merge together, but since last year’s WWDC it’s been clear that the overall goal is to provide a common app platform across the operating systems. (What will make Macs different, presumably, will be their ability to also run traditional Mac applications that have more capabilities than iOS apps do.)

Wish List: Whole-home AirDrop

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-20 18:30

Expanding AirDrop support might complicate security, but you can already scan for devices in a crowded café or conference.

When I first started using a Mac, there wasn’t built-in file sharing—you copied files onto a floppy disk and walked them to a different computer, a process delightfully known as “sneakernet 1.” But the ’90s were an exciting time for more than just grunge music, and the Mac finally got built-in file sharing with System 7, so you could find a Mac, connect to it, see its shared folders, and drag things in and out within the Finder.

This is a file-sharing model that has largely remained intact through all the changes in the Mac platform. To this day I can open a browser window, find a local Mac, give it a password (or log in as a guest), and view a subset of its files as if it were an external disk on my Mac.

But something funny happened back in 2011: Apple introduced an entirely different approach to exchanging files between devices, one that it added to iOS a few years later: AirDrop. Unlike the old approach of mounting a shared folder or volume, this was modern Apple’s take on solving the problem of exchanging files.

AirDrop’s interface is simpler, because you don’t mount any volumes—you just exchange individual files. (AirDrop’s still a drag-and-drop process on the Mac, but on iOS it’s all done out of the sharing interface.) AirDrop is simpler than setting up file sharing and more elegant than emailing yourself or a family member a file (and waiting for it to make the round trip up to your mail server and back down). It bypasses the complexities of your local network and connects directly via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Over the years, Apple has continued to improve AirDrop. In the last year I’ve completely abandoned my old method of transferring large files (mostly audio stuff for podcast projects) between my Mac and my iPad. I previously attached a cable and used the file-sharing features embedded clumsily within iTunes. Now I just use AirDrop. When I AirDrop giant audio files to my iPad, the transfers are fast and iOS does exactly the right thing, offering to open the files in any compatible app, including Ferrite, my podcast editing app of choice. It couldn’t be easier.

Well, that’s not right. It could be easier. When I complete a podcast project I want to transfer the archived Ferrite project file to my Mac, where I can file it away for backup and long-term storage. AirDrop’s an easy way to do it—but only if I’m within 10 or 15 feet of my Mac Mini server, which lives in a corner of my garage. I end up walking into the garage and standing by the server until the AirDrop concludes.

This got me thinking: AirDrop is well established and easy to use and, especially on iOS, a far better alternative to traditional file sharing. (Let me also point out that Apple has refused to support traditional file sharing access in iOS, though you can get to it via a third-party app such as FileExplorer.) So why not expand it to include cases where devices are on the same local network but not within close proximity?

What I’m advocating is an extension of AirDrop that doesn’t just search for devices that are nearby, but also offers devices that are AirDrop-capable and reside on your local network. I can appreciate that the transfers might not be as fast and that there are security issues that would need to be worked out, though I’m not sure the security aspects are more complicated than using AirDrop at a crowded conference or café. Apple has already built in layers of permissions, including the ability to only transfer files to your own Apple ID or the Apple IDs of people you have added to your contacts list, and a requirement that you accept all file-transfer requests from other people.

The other day my daughter needed a few big media files that were stored on my iMac. I told her to walk her MacBook out into the garage and stand there while we transferred the files. It seemed utterly unnecessary. Why couldn’t she go back to her bedroom and get the files across our local network? Why should I set up file sharing on my iMac for a one-off file transfer?

With AirDrop, Apple has come up with a simpler way to pass files around. In doing so, it’s made traditional file sharing seem old and fussy. So my modest proposal to Apple is to take AirDrop and expand its powers. Let people in homes and offices use it to drop files to each other, even if they’re not fortunate enough to be sitting right next to each other. Apple, you did your job and you did it well—I’ve utterly embraced AirDrop. But now I want more.

  1. We used an add-on product called TOPS to move files around our local network at my college newspaper office. ↩

It's time for Apple to get back into the smart home in a big way (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-20 17:53, modified at 17:54

Apple’s current strategy in the home tech market is a bit murky. It launched the HomePod and Apple TV 4K in 2017 and HomeKit support seems to have become much more widespread lately, but it also killed the AirPort line of products and has stood by as competitors like Google and Amazon snap up companies like Nest and Eero.

This past week we learned that the company has hired a new head of home products, which makes me ask the question: What exactly does Apple expect Sam Jadallah to do? Is his job to make deals with HomeKit partners and make the HomePod more successful? Or is this the sort of thing that happens when a company shifts gears because it’s realized that its old strategy wasn’t working?

There are no end to the opportunities for Apple in building more devices for the home. It just has to decide if it wants to compete in that market, or write it all off. I’m increasingly coming to believe that Apple needs to do more, not less, in building home products.

(Podcast) Rebound 226: The Rerebound

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-20 15:32

This week on the most irreverent tech show not yet ripped off by a pale imitation, we recap this past week’s all-Rebound-host Mario Kart tournament, with some surprising revelations. Plus, a rundown of one analyst’s reports on what Apple has in store for the coming year, a look at Huawei’s latest shady doings, and the problem with pockets, both small and large.

A week of podcasting with only an iPad Pro

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-19 22:41, modified at 23:18

Equipment hooked up
Recording Liftoff from the spare bedroom at my mother’s house in Arizona. (The little blue box is a mute switch.)

Last week I took a trip during which I needed to record three podcasts (Liftoff, Download, Six Colors Subscriber Podcast) with guests who would be participating via Skype. I almost took my trusty old MacBook Air with me, but I decided to see if I could figure out a way to replicate the bulk of my home recording setup without requiring a Mac.

In the past, I’ve done something similar using the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB, a microphone that can output a digital signal using USB and an analog signal via an XLR cord simultaneously. The problem is that the last time I tried to use the ATR2100-USB with my iPad Pro, it didn’t return my own voice into my ears, making me unable to judge the sound quality of my own microphone. After years of having my own voice return to me, I strongly prefer not to record unable to hear my own voice. (I use in-ear headphones that largely shut out audio from the outside world, so the experience of speaking while not hearing yourself is even more profoundly weird than it would be with leaky earbuds.)

This time I wanted it all, or at least as close to all as I’m able to get with iOS in the mix: A pristine recording of my own voice, that same high-quality microphone audio also flowing across digitally to my podcast guests via Skype, and the ability to hear both my guests and myself at the same time.

I made it work with the addition of one box to my usual iPad workflow. Here’s what I did:

A flowchart.

First, I plugged an analog XLR microphone into my Zoom H6 recorder. That solves the “get a pristine recording of my own voice” problem. But how to get that audio out of my Zoom recorder and into my iPad Pro? If I plug my headphones into the Zoom, I’ll be able to hear myself but not my guests. If I attach the Zoom to the iPad, I can relay my audio—but the Zoom is unable to record audio when it’s being used as a USB audio interface.

Second, I need to route my microphone audio out of the Zoom to a device capable of transferring it to my iPad Pro (and also transferring the voices of my panelists from the iPad back to me). Any standard USB audio interface should be more or less capable of that, and so I used mine—the Sound Devices USBPre2. The trick was how to connect the Zoom to the USBPre2. Fortunately, the zoom has a Line Out port on its front, and the USBPre2 has a line-in port on its side, and I happened to have the right cable (minijack on one side, stereo RCA on the other) to connect the two of them in my random drawer of audio cables.

Third, I attach my USB audio interface to my iPad Pro. (I used a USB-B to USB-C audio cable for this, but an old-school cable will also work with an adapter.) I haven’t yet met a USB device that my iPad Pro is incapable of powering by itself, so the USBPre2 worked just fine. I also attached my headphones to the USBPre2, so I could hear myself and my guests.

That’s it! I could launch Skype, press record on the Zoom, and record a podcast. My guests heard my high-quality microphone audio, I could hear them, and I could hear myself (with no noticeable latency). The only thing I’m really missing is the ability to record my guests’ audio too, as a backup, but I chose to live dangerously and speak only to people who know what they’re doing when it comes to recording for a podcast.

The final step was one that I’ve described before, namely using an external Wi-Fi box to transfer my audio files back to my iPad for editing. This workaround remains until the day where Apple decides to let iPads see external storage devices directly. Then it was off to Ferrite to put the podcasts together after the participants sent me their files and I imported them into Ferrite. (As an added bonus, in a recent update, Ferrite has gained the ability to split multi-track QuickTime audio files into their component tracks. Ecamm’s Call Recorder for Skype uses this approach and until Ferrite was updated, I’d have to use a Mac to split those audio files in two. No longer.)

And that’s it! It’s not pretty, it’s two more boxes than I’d otherwise bring, and I refuse to weigh the difference in boxes and compare it to the weight of my 11-inch Air. The important thing is that I was able to travel with my iPad and no Mac and have more or less the same podcast experience that I have when I’m sitting at home at my iMac.

(Podcast) Upgrade #233: Let's Start a Rumor

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-18 20:36

A 16-inch MacBook Pro? A 6K Apple external display? Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has dropped the first detailed report of Apple’s 2019 hardware plans, and Myke and Jason take turns dissecting them and wildly speculating about possible features. Also we ponder what a services-themed Apple event might look like, which is a lovely discussion until someone mentions Drake.

Analyzing Apple's March 25 event (Tom's Guide)

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-17 18:55, modified at 18:56

It looks as though Apple will hold a special event next month unlike any it’s held in recent memory, according to multiple reports. At the center of the stage won’t be new Mac, iPhone, or iPad hardware, but a new collection of subscription services.

This rumored March 25 event has probably been inevitable for a few years now, ever since Apple called out the importance of services revenue to its corporate growth. The most reliable source of growth at Apple the last few years has been in services, powered largely by the App Store, along with Apple Music, Apple Pay, and iCloud.

With its new services, Apple is planning on using its stature in the tech world, the size of its customer base, and its staggering cash flow to insert itself in markets that are undergoing rapid transformations. And while Apple’s not going to beat Netflix or Amazon Prime overnight, Tim Cook could always unveil a bundle that ties together video, music, news and more that could further shake things up.

What part of the UK/Ireland are you from, based on linguistics

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-15 13:18

I’ve always prided myself on being conversant with many terms from the English spoken in Ireland and Great Britain, having read a lot of books and watched a lot of movies and TV from those countries while growing up. 1

However, this quiz in the New York Times has revealed the sad truth: my ability to pass for a native of those countries is limited not only by my lack of a reliable accent, but also my mishmash of terms from all across the countries. While I can recognize a lot of the words and expressions here, I can’t put them together into a single consistent profile, which the quiz correctly pegged.

Folks in the U.S., however, should check out the author’s similar quiz from 2013, covering our own country. I found it scarily accurate, as it identified not only where I was from, but its second-place guess was where my mother grew up and much of my extended family is from. Language is endlessly fascinating.

  1. And, of course, I lived in Scotland for six months during college, which really brought home the old “two people separate by a common language” chestnut. ↩

Three hurdles Apple’s rumored news service will have to overcome (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-15 13:10

Apple’s plans to launch a subscription service for news are, by this point, an open secret. Just under a year ago, the company announced its acquisition of existing magazine subscription service Texture, which Apple executive Eddy Cue quickly revealed would be folded into the existing Apple News app.

Since then, the news service has mostly been absent from the limelight, generally taking a backseat to the more prominent news leaking out around Apple’s upcoming video streaming service. But as recent reports have started to filter out that the news service and TV service may be announced by Apple at the same event in March, combined with rumors about the revenue split between Cupertino and its periodical partners, the news service is suddenly back in the front seat—as are the challenges that it will face when it eventually sees the light of day.

Why some publishers are going for Apple's 50/50 split

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-14 15:43

Great take from Recode’s Peter Kafka, as always, on why magazine publishers specifically are willing to swallow Apple’s 50-percent revenue split:

And some publishers are happy to do it, because they think Apple will sign up many millions of people to the new service. And they’d rather have a smaller percentage of a bigger number than a bigger chunk of a smaller number.

In the words of a publishing executive who is optimistic about Apple’s plans: “It’s the absolute dollars paid out that matters, not the percentage.”

In short, newspapers that have a thriving subscription business—like the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and New York Times—are understandably not thrilled, since they’re pulling in customer revenue already. But many magazine publishers specifically haven’t been as successful at turning readers into paying customers, so they’re falling back to a time-honored strategy of, yes, hoping to make it up in the volume of new customers that Apple will bring in.

(Podcast) Clockwise #281: Developers Need to Feed Their Pet Chickens

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-13 19:22

This week on the 30 minute tech show that gives 60 Minutes a run for its money, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Aleen Simms and Casey Liss to discuss Apple wanting 50 percent of publisher revenue for its news subscription service, where exactly all the App Store money is going, what Amazon wants with Eero, and transformative technology that seems underwhelming by today’s standards. Plus, a Valentine’s Day-themed bonus topic.

Report: Apple services roll-out planned for March 25

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-13 18:59, modified at 19:00

John Paczkowski of BuzzFeed News, a pretty reliable reporter on this stuff, says Apple is planning a roll-out event for March 25:

Sources tell BuzzFeed News that the company plans to hold a special event on March 25 at the Steve Jobs Theater on its Apple Park campus. Headlining the gathering: that subscription news service that has been all over the news today. Unlikely to make an appearance: next-generation AirPods, or that rumored new iPad Mini.

Sources described the event as subscription-services focused, but declined to say anything about Apple’s stand-alone video streaming service, which is also rumored to debut in 2019. Earlier this year, the Information reported that Apple had told studios and networks to be prepared for an April launch.

If this event is at the Steve Jobs Theater it will mark the first time Apple has used the theater for a media event outside of the last two iPhone launches. I’d been wondering if they were going to continue the pattern of finding other venues (in other cities) to complement the annual iPhone roll-out at Apple Park, but this would break that pattern. To be honest, I’m a little surprised Apple isn’t planning to embrace Hollywood and do this event in L.A., but the Steve Jobs Theater is a pretty great venue its own self.

I’d assume the main announcement of this event will be Apple’s forthcoming video service, with the news subscription service (and, presumably, a subscription bundle) as an additional item on the agenda. After the reports this week about the terms of the proposed news service—as someone who spent a couple decades in print publishing covering Apple, Apple’s reported terms are both unsurprising and completely bananas—I am not at all confident that the service will be particularly impressive at launch. (Never count out Apple, but the News service may take a lot of time and many tweaks to get right.)

I’m not at all surprised at Paczkowski’s report that hardware will not be on the agenda. Can you imagine Jennifer Anniston being introduced after the demo of a new iPad Mini? Neither can I. I’m also not sure we’ll need to wait till March to see new AirPods, given that existing AirPods stock is drying up. Maybe it’s a hiccup in the supply chain, or maybe we’re witnessing the shifting of gears. It seems to me that Apple doesn’t need a media event to release some new AirPods.

Now is the time for Apple to re-think its retail priorities (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-13 15:48

Federico Viticci said it best on the Connected podcast last week: The departure of Angela Ahrendts as Apple’s retail chief is a Rorschach test. One’s reaction to the news will reveal a lot about one’s feelings about the current state of Apple’s retail stores.

I’ve seen a lot of criticism of Ahrendts featuring aspects of the Apple Store experience that actually preceded her. No, she didn’t invent the where’s-the-line, where-do-I-stand set-up that completely breaks everything we ever learned about how to behave in a retail store. (Under her tenure the approach was modified, not discarded—and in recent years I’ve noticed a more aggressive positioning of employees at the front of stores to intercept new shoppers and put them in the right place.)

(Podcast) Rebound 225: Now We Play Putt-Putt For Real Money!

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-13 15:37

This week, on the irreverent tech show that will always be your Valentine, we discuss Amazon’s purchase of Eero, Kashmir Hill’s attempt to cut the major five tech companies out of her life, Apple’s naming of a new product marketing head for VR, Angela Ahrendts leaving Apple, and, of course, OUR PICKS.

Plus, tune in for our Rebound-host Mario Kart TOURNAMENT, live this coming Sunday, February 17th at 7pm Pacific/10pm Eastern. More information to come.

Finding my way around iOS roadblocks

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-13 05:34, modified at 19:21

As I wrote earlier this month, I ended up finishing my Six Colors Report Card story on the Mac because I ran into several roadblocks when I tried to finish the project on my iPad.

The point wasn’t that these tasks were impossible on the iPad, but that they were inconvenient enough—requiring me to research a bunch of apps or figure out workarounds or write scripts—that I was better off just going back to my Mac and doing the work there, primarily in BBEdit and Numbers.

I complained about not being able to do grep searches in my iOS text editors of choice, and while that’s true, several people pointed out that there are iOS apps that are capable of them, most notably Coda by Panic and Textastic Code Editor 71 I own both of these apps and while I don’t like writing articles using them—they’re development tools more than writing tools—they absolutely support grep and I will use them in the future when I need to do pattern-matching searches on iOS.

I wouldn’t want to write in Textastic, but it greps well.

I also lamented the lack of BBEdit’s Sort Lines feature in any of my chosen iOS text editors. I still don’t have an answer for this, though I get the distinct sense that if I spent a few hours teaching myself a bit more JavaScript I could figure out how to write some scripts for 1Writer that would do the trick.

The biggest impediment to finishing my work on the iPad, though, came from the fact that I needed to generate a bunch of charts in Numbers—and they use a non-default font, Proxima Nova, that wasn’t installed on my iPad. How do you install extra fonts on the iPad?

It turns out, there’s a way—just a spectacularly inelegant one. Several apps will do it, taking font files transferred from the Mac and wrapping them in custom configuration files, then emailing them to yourself, at which point you can install them via the Settings app. I tried the free iFont 2 and it worked perfectly. Installing via the same kind of custom configuration file you’d use to install VPN software or to opt in to one of Apple’s beta-testing programs is not intuitive in any way, but with the help of iFont, I was able to get my charts to display on my iPad identically to how they display on my Mac.

Behold, Proxima Nova in Numbers on iPad.

This is perhaps my final lesson from this process 3: That I can work around most, if not all, of the roadblocks that iOS places in front of me. It might take an app I’ve never heard about, a feature of an app I rarely use, or hours of hacking together scripts based on code samples found in Google searches, but I can probably make it work. That’s not necessarily an endorsement—in the end it was far easy for me to go back to the Mac, where I’ve assembled all the tools I need to do my job over more than two decades. It’s a reminder that as appealing as working on my iPad is, there are still rough areas that I’m much more comfortable handling on my Mac.

  1. Hat tips to chanomie and Dave. ↩

  2. Thanks to iFont developer Cameron for pointing it out, and to Donkey for pointing out Anyfont. ↩

  3. Or not. Posting this story was delayed because all of my Shortcuts for resizing and uploading images broke in the latest iOS update. ↩

Report: Apple offering 50/50 split in its magazine service

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-12 21:09

AdAge’s Garrett Sloane:

Apple’s upcoming Spotify-style magazine subscription service, an offering with all-you-can eat access to dozens of publishers, will only pay the media partners 50 percent of the revenue, according to two senior publishing executives from different companies with knowledge of the deal.

Obviously, this information is coming from publishing executives, who have good reason to be ticked off. Apple taking 50 percent of revenue is absurdly high, even more so because Apple is looking to hold on to the golden goose, by not sharing customer data with the publications.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about whether the 70/30 split in the App Store is still equitable, and Apple has provided exceptions: for example, developers who get customers to subscribe to their app or service can get an 85 percent share after the customer’s first year.

That makes a 50/50 even more ridiculous, especially because of the potential long-term effects, as Tech Crunch’s Matthew Panzarino pointed out:

Apple News is already providing a huge amount of traffic to news sites, but that isn’t bringing money with it. Offering the publications a meager 50 percent of subscriber revenue sure seems like Apple’s giving them the short end of the stick.

Panic to rename Coda

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-12 05:11, modified at 05:23

This is a weird one. The Panic Inc. Twitter account tweeted:

Many of you noticed a new Coda on the scene — a reimagined document that just launched at http://coda.io/ — and were concerned about their name. Thanks for looking out for us! We’ve worked with them and resolved the collision — they are Coda and it’s ok.

The big twist: that also means the massive update to Panic’s Coda currently in the works will not be called Coda!!? (It actually makes a lot of sense — it really is a whole new app.) We’ll post some details on this exciting new thing in a few weeks. 2019 is gonna be fun!

Panic’s Coda is a web-development app for Mac that’s been around since 2007. There’s also Coda for iOS, which has also been renamed “Coda by Panic” as a part of whatever deal the company made with this VC-funded Coda startup.

As Dr. Drang quipped on Twitter, “I hope Panic is seven-figures OK with giving up the Coda name.”

As for Coda.io, it’s a startup that launched publicly last year that’s billed as a “new kind of productivity doc,” sort of a document that’s also a database that’s also a word processor. It’s a floor wax and a dessert topping.

I hope some of their sweet VC money will grease the skids of whatever Panic is building next.

iPad diaries: Finding FileExplorer

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-12 05:08, modified at 05:10

Federico Viticci has convinced me that I should be using a different app to connect my iPad to my local Mac mini file server and to my Linode server via FTP:

MacStories reader Matthew brought FileExplorer to my attention last December; having used the app every day for over a month now, I can say this is my new gold standard for integration between Files and external servers….

What sets FileExplorer apart is its excellent integration with the Files app, which, unlike FileBrowser, is fully independent from the main app and doesn’t require a separate authentication step. Connections you create in FileExplorer (and I tested this with FTP, SFTP, and macOS servers) show up as folders in the FileExplorer location in the Files app; even if the main FileExplorer app has been force quit, selecting a server inside its Files extension will open a connection in the background and display the contents of the connected server, allowing you to browse its file structure.

Yes, yes, a million times yes. I had used FileBrowser for a while, but having to launch the app first in order to enable access within Files was ridiculous. FileExplorer has really impressed me in my first few days of using it, and I think I’ve finally found the perfect solution both for my local files and for remote FTP access since the death of Transmit for iOS.

(Dr. Drang has reasons for preferring FileBrowser, but while I understand them, my use case is far more like Federico’s. I’d be happy never to use the app itself at all—I just want Files access. I hope Apple sherlocks this feature entirely in iOS 13.)

Stephen Hackett reviews the 2018 MacBook Air

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-12 05:02

Stephen Hackett at 512 Pixels bought a MacBook Air to replace his wife’s 12-inch MacBook:

The biggest news here is that the new Air is the first Mac to ship with a Touch ID sensor without a Touch Bar.

It’s great.

Coincidentally, last week my family also welcomed a new MacBook Air in to our house, replacing my wife’s old 13-inch Air. (I got it on sale for $999, which still really feels like the ideal price.) It’s striking how much smaller the new model is, thanks to the shrinking of the bezels. Lauren misses MagSafe and is still getting used to the keyboard, but she took the laptop with her to a meeting in Oakland on Friday and was thrilled at the battery life she got.

And yes, as Stephen says, that Touch ID sensor (without Touch Bar) is awesome.

(Podcast) Upgrade #232: De-emphasis on Trees

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-11 19:43

It’s been reported that the iPad’s home screen will be evolving in 2019, but what form will that evolution take? Myke and Jason make a wish list, and also discuss Angela Ahrendts’s departure from Apple Retail, Spotify’s investment in podcasting, and Apple and Disney’s latest streaming-media moves.

(Sponsor) Take Control of Slack

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-09 00:52, modified at 00:53

My thanks to Glenn Fleishman for sponsoring Six Colors this week as a way of promoting the new edition of his ebook, Take Control of Slack. Here’s Glenn to explain himself:

One morning, we all awoke and found ourselves part of a Slack group. I may be exaggerating, but it seems like Slack came out of nowhere to be the group messaging and archiving tool of choice, especially for offices and organizations with a spread-out set of employees or members.

I wrote the ebook Take Control of Slack to fit a range of people who use Slack regularly, sometimes constantly, and find themselves wanting to better understand its features without devoting hours to sorting them all out.

The ebook is useful to people at all level of Slack experience, and goes far behind walking you through options and features. Instead, I explain how Slack works and how to get the best use out of it, whether it’s controlling notifications so you aren’t overwhelmed (or underwhelming) by updates. It’s full of tips, like pressing up-arrow in a desktop Slack app to edit you previously posted message.

This ebook is fully up to date with all the tweaks and refinement Slack added, from video conferencing and screen sharing to its new logo and branding. Take Control of Slack is an ebook that will help you achieve mastery to reduce frustration, improve efficiency, and focus less on Slack and more on what you’re trying to get done.

Six Colors readers get 25% off the price by using the coupon code SIXCOLORSSLACK or following this link.

Apple’s bug bounties need to get with the program (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-08 13:23

Digital and information security is something that everybody’s had to become all too familiar with over the past decade. As we carry around devices that themselves store everything from our friends’ contact details to our bank account information, it’s become ever more crucial that those devices be well secured against all possible intruders.

In general, Apple’s track record on security has been pretty solid. The App Store’s walled garden, while often the target of derision from competitors, has done an effective job of curtailing malware on the platform and the company issues frequent security updates to its products.

But even Apple isn’t without its security shortcomings, and a few recent incidents suggest ways that the company may need to go beyond just patching vulnerabilities in its software and change the procedures around how it deals with the people who uncover these exploits.

(Podcast) Download #90: Spotify Buys Podcasting

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-07 20:30, modified at 20:31

This week on Download, Stephen Hackett and Jason discuss Apple’s retail changes and Facebook’s 15th anniversary. Then Natalie Jarvey of The Hollywood Reporter visits to discuss Spotify spending a lot of money on podcasting companies, and Jeremy Burge of Emojipedia unveils the new emoji coming later in 2019.

Apple's modem engineering team now reports to custom silicon chief

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-07 13:18

Reuters reports a slight but significant reorganization in Apple’s hardware engineering teams:

Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of hardware technologies, took over the company’s modem design efforts in January, the sources said. The organizational move has not been previously reported.

Connect the dots: Apple drops Qualcomm modem chips, wireless silicon team staffs up, and now that team reports to Johny Srouji, the head of hardware technologies—aka, the folks who develop Apple’s custom silicon.

The design process of this year’s iPhone is probably too far along for an Apple-built modem, but I would be pretty surprised if one didn’t appear in one of the company’s products by next year.

How will Apple redesign the iPad home screen? (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-07 00:00

Buried at the end of Mark Gurman’s high-profile Bloomberg report about future Apple product announcements is a tidbit that’s of enormous interest to anyone who loves using their iPad.

Apple’s next operating system update, iOS 13, will include… iPad-specific upgrades like a new home screen, the ability to tab through multiple versions of a single app like pages in a web browser, and improvements to file management.

That’s a lot of information distilled into a small paragraph, but what jumped out at me most is the idea that the iPad’s home screen—which has spent almost nine years using a spaced-out version of the iPhone’s design—might finally be getting a redesign that addresses the fact that the iPad isn’t the same device as the iPhone.

It’s exciting! After more than a decade using more or less the same old app-launching interface Apple introduced with the original iPhone, it takes some effort imagine how Apple could reinvent the concept of a home screen for the iPad. But reader, I’ve managed to make that effort. Here’s a look at some directions I hope Apple will go, assuming Gurman’s sources are right, when we first see this feature this summer.

(Podcast) Clockwise #280: I Swear I'm Not a Vinyl Hipster

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-06 19:00, modified at 19:01

This week, on the 30-minute show that is replete with clock puns, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Matthew Cassinelli and James Thomson to discuss which iOS apps and games stand the test of time on our devices, what Apple could do to improve Siri Shortcuts, our first order of business as the new head of Apple Retail, and the impending(?) death of physical media.

(Podcast) Rebound 224: I'm Voting for Number 9

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-06 15:31, modified at 15:32

This week, on the irreverent tech show that gets meta, Dan confesses to buying an iPhone SE…but there’s a catch. Plus, Lex shares a Netflix show that he’s enjoy over and over, and John buys a new clicky keyboard (trying saying that five times fast). Plus we run down last week’s Apple numbers and almost talk about Spotify buying a podcast firm.

The FBI conducted a sting against Huawei at CES

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-06 15:03

Every once in a while a tech story falls through the cracks because it’s just outside of my usual purview. Hence this story, which I actually caught on Marketplace the other night, about a sting operation conducted against Huawei by the FBI at this year’s CES—which even included a Businessweek reporter.

230 new emojis in final list for 2019

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-05 23:22, modified at 23:24

Jeremy Burge of Emojipedia has the details about the next batch of Emojis approved by the Unicode Consortium:

Additions include previously drafted candidates such as a Flamingo, Otter, and Guide Dog, as well as a Waffle, Hindu Temple, Sari, Sloth, and Mate. Circles and squares gain new colors in this release and a much requested white heart emoji is now available for the first time.

If tradition holds, these will likely be added to iOS and macOS this fall, in the first post-release update to both operating systems.

Angela Ahrendts to leave Apple in April, replaced by Deirdre O'Brien

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-05 22:49, modified at 22:53


Apple today announced that Deirdre O’Brien is taking on new responsibilities for Apple’s retail and online stores in an expanded role as senior vice president of Retail + People, reporting to CEO Tim Cook. After five transformative years leading the company’s retail and online stores, Angela Ahrendts plans to depart Apple in April for new personal and professional pursuits.

End of an era. I just hope she doesn’t decide to revamp a department store.

Going back to the Mac to finish the Six Colors Report Card

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-04 22:41, modified at 23:27

Last week I posted the annual Six Colors Report Card, a story package that includes lots of quotes (about 5,000 words out of the 30,000 words submitted by panelists) and a bunch of charts. It’s a large project and I worked on it across both macOS and iOS, starting in Google Forms, moving to Microsoft Excel, and going through a text munging process in BBEdit to generate a document with panelist comments collected together, organized by topic area.

I edited the story together on both my Mac and my iPad, moving back and forth depending on where I was and what I was doing. The last few hours of work were done largely away from my office, on my iPad. But as it came time to wrap up the story and get it ready for posting, I ended up moving back to my Mac. As someone who advocates working on the iPad, I thought it was worth noting the places where my iPad either couldn’t do the job or couldn’t do it easily enough for it to be worth doing.

I’ve reached a point where many of my work tasks are actually easier on iOS than on my Mac—when I post a new podcast episode to Six Colors, for example, I use a Shortcut on my iPad or even my iPhone. Others are equivalent, like the Automator- and Shortcuts-based tools I use to export Apple financial charts. But there are still a few times when the iPad is a worse tool for the job.

Recently I decided to change all my charts over to Proxima Nova, the font used in the Six Colors logo, and one available to me with my Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. I wasn’t thinking about the fact that this means Numbers won’t necessarily display my charts properly, because there’s still no straightforward way 1 to install or embed typefaces on iOS. So I exported all my charts from my Mac.

More than that, I discovered that certain chart format features available on Numbers on the Mac simply don’t exist on iOS. I wanted to modify a chart to use an additional data set, only to discover that I wasn’t able to style that data set to match the presentation of the other data in the chart. That was a Mac-only feature. It’s frustrating.

Finally, there’s the text munging itself. I mentioned above that I needed to use BBEdit to process the input from my panelists. Google Forms lets you walk away with a spreadsheet containing all the data, which I was able to download as an Excel file. What I needed wasn’t a giant Excel file with one respondent per row; instead, I needed to view each category and all the comments within it, with each comment preceded by the name of the person giving it. I was able to do this with a bunch of Excel finessing and several pattern-matching search-and-replace functions in BBEdit.

At the end of the process, though, I found I needed BBEdit again—and while it’s possible that there are iOS solutions to my problems, I couldn’t find the tools at hand and I knew they were available on my Mac, so I jumped back.

The first issue was one of formatting. In my story, I wanted to link similar short quotes together in order to tell the larger story. Typical journalism convention involves putting each quoted speaker into their own paragraph and more generally trying to reduce confusion about who said what. But in assembling this particular story, I didn’t want to separate every small quote by paragraph. That led to me having a lot of paragraphs that looked like this:

There was also praise for the MacBook Air revision. “The MacBook Air looks like it’s going to be a great machine for the majority of users, even if it is a couple hundred dollars more expensive than I’d like,” said Stephen Hackett. “I like the new retina MacBook Air a lot, but it was overdue by at least a year,” said John Gruber.

The problem with this style is that readers are likely to think that the second quote is in Stephen Hackett’s voice until after it ends, when it’s revealed that it was John Gruber all along. Not great. I was not sure what I wanted to do, but—prodded by Charles Arthur—I spent some time pondering and decided just to put the attributions in front of the quotes. It’s not something I prefer to do in most stories in which I quote people, but the Report Card is a strange beast and it was important to be very clear about who said what.

But now I have a 5,000-word article, already written, full of quotes that are formatted the wrong way! What to do? The answer, of course, was to compose a regular expression in BBEdit that swapped the location of the attribution:

grep pattern

The end result (I walked through the document making each change individually in order to make some minor corrections on the fly where necessary):

There was also praise for the MacBook Air revision. Stephen Hackett said, “The MacBook Air looks like it’s going to be a great machine for the majority of users, even if it is a couple hundred dollars more expensive than I’d like.” John Gruber said, “I like the new retina MacBook Air a lot, but it was overdue by at least a year.”

And it took me a couple of minutes to write the regular expression, instead of a half an hour laboriously copying and pasting flipped-around attributions.

Finally, I needed to create a list of all my participating panelists to place at the bottom of the article. I wanted this list to be alphabetized by last name. Again, BBEdit came to the rescue—it’s got a Sort Lines command that lets you match a regular expression and then sort by any portion of that expression. This let me match first and last names and then sort on the last name, at which point I could replace the line breaks with commas and, voila—a comma-delimited and alphabetized list.

One of these days I suppose am going to have to invest some time in finding the iOS equivalents to all these BBEdit features. But in the meantime, I was glad I could pop into my office and finish this particular job on my Mac.

  1. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a way, it’s just not what I’d consider “straightforward.” More on this in a later post. ↩

(Podcast) Upgrade #231: The Upgrade Cycle Is Extending

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-04 20:35, modified at 20:36

What Apple’s quarterly results had to say about iPhone sales and prices, Apple reaches a fork in the road when it comes to keyboard design, and just after the official opening of 2019 iPhone Rumor Season comes the official opening of 2020 iPhone Rumor Season.

Sponsor: Take Control of Slack

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-04 19:52, modified at 19:54

By Glenn Fleishman

One morning, we all awoke and found ourselves part of a Slack group. I may be exaggerating, but it seems like Slack came out of nowhere to be the group messaging and archiving tool of choice, especially for offices and organizations with a spread-out set of employees or members.

I wrote the ebook Take Control of Slack to fit a range of people who use Slack regularly, sometimes constantly, and find themselves wanting to better understand its features without devoting hours to sorting them all out. I’m in four teams at present, and have been in a total of 20 at different times—some work, some social, and some family—and have used that experience to make this ebook.

The ebook is useful to people at all level of Slack experience, and goes far behind walking you through options and features. Instead, I explain how Slack works and how to get the best use out of it, whether it’s controlling notifications so you aren’t overwhelmed (or underwhelming) by updates. It’s full of tips, like pressing up-arrow in a desktop Slack app to edit you previously posted message. I also explain the differences in detail between free and paid Slack workspaces, and why your group might benefit from paying to upgrade.

Take Control of Slack goes into privacy concerns, and how Slack discloses private messages to a Slack workspace owner and to government. And I explain how to extend Slack by adding app conduits for Asana, JIRA, Trello, Google Calendar, and other task-tracking and scheduling systems.

This ebook is fully up to date with all the tweaks and refinement Slack added, from video conferencing and screen sharing to its new logo and branding.

Take Control of Slack is an ebook that will help you achieve mastery to reduce frustration, improve efficiency, and focus less on Slack and more on what you’re trying to get done.

Six Colors readers get 25% off the price by using the coupon code SIXCOLORSSLACK or following this link.

The XR is Apple's top phone, and other iPhone sales secrets (Tom's Guide)

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-02 17:16

It was the second-best of times, it was the worst of times. The last three months of 2018 comprised Apple’s second-largest fiscal quarter of all time … but it was smaller than the year-ago quarter. And no amount of rising services revenue or record-setting iPad and Mac installed-base figures can offset the fact that the iPhone — which makes up nearly two-thirds of Apple’s revenue — was down.

In an unusual disclosure in early January, Apple CEO Tim Cook warned the world that Apple’s prior rosy forecast for the holiday quarter had proved to be inaccurate. This week, the company finally released the official figures for that period, and hopped on a phone call with financial analysts to provide a little more detail about what’s going on with Apple’s business.

These statements, while obviously self-serving, are legally mandated to be factual. And anytime Apple lets a bit of information about its business leak out, it’s worth paying attention. In fact, we learned quite a few tidbits about Apple’s iPhone business this week.

Three Apple decisions that don’t please the user, but the company won’t change (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2019-02-01 14:22

The results are in and, despite a downturn in iPhone sales that require reissuing its revenue estimates, Apple still managed to pull in billions of dollars in its latest quarter. Yes, the drop in iPhone sales that we’ve all been talking about did hurt Apple’s bottom line, but the company’s certainly not about to pack it all in.

However, Apple’s most recent report brought to mind a few of the decisions that the company has made in recent years—decisions that don’t always please the end user, but help Apple’s bottom line. The results in the most recent quarter seem to implicitly reaffirm that those decisions are here to stay, no matter how unpopular they might be among some segments of the customer base.

Locast is the free broadcast TV streamer you've never heard of

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-31 16:33

In the New York Times, Edmund Lee has a fascinating look at Locast, a company that’s streaming broadcast TV over the Internet for free, thanks to a potential loophole: it’s structured as a non-profit.

Once plucked from the ether, the content is piped through the internet and assembled into an app called Locast. It’s a streaming service, and it makes all of this network programming available to subscribers in ways that are more convenient than relying on a home antenna: It’s viewable on almost any device, at any time, in pristine quality that doesn’t cut in and out. It’s also completely free.

As the article points out, Locast is very similar to a previous effort in this space, Aereo, which ultimately lost a Supreme Court case and was shut down. 1 But Locast is free to sign up for and use, taking only voluntary donations.

Much of the article is a profile of Locast’s creator, David Goodfriend, who not only served in the Clinton administration but was legal counsel to the FCC. Goodfriend seems confident that Locast is in the clear, and, as the piece puts it, is basically daring the network to sue him.

I’m surprised this is the first I’ve heard of this service, but as the article points out, that low profile nature is a benefit to the broadcasters who clearly don’t want users flocking there. I installed the app and created an account and, sure enough, I was streaming our local PBS station within seconds in great quality. There’s even caption support.

There doesn’t appear to be an Apple TV native app yet, but it does support AirPlay. (And, in one major difference from Aereo, there doesn’t seem to be any recording feature, which no doubt would potentially increase the chances that Locast might find itself in trouble.)

In particular, I loved this part:

“I ask people all the time, ‘Do you know you’re supposed to get television for free?’” Mr. Goodfriend said during an interview in Central Park, gesturing to a gaggle of visitors. “Most people under 50 don’t get it.”

Exactly. I mean, I’ve got a digital antenna hooked up to my TV, but I only plug it in when there’s a particular event we want to watch. I’d much prefer to have it available as an app on my Apple TV.

  1. I was an early subscriber! It was pretty cool.  ↩

Mario Kart Tour delayed to summer 2019

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-31 14:19

[sad Yoshi noise]

(Podcast) Clockwise #279: What Sorcery Is This?

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-30 19:30

This week on the 30-minute tech show that can keep you warm in the worst of times, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Adam Engst and Kelly Guimont to discuss our usage of Group FaceTime before and after this week’s privacy bug, which tech company we’d choose to run the government, what it will take for our data privacy to get taken seriously, and how we deal with the information onslaught in this day and age. Plus, a location-based bonus topic.

5 things we learned from Apple's latest quarterly results (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-30 17:55, modified at 17:56

Apple’s holiday quarter of calendar-year 2018 was, by most measures, incredibly successful. Revenue of $84.3 billion, $20 billion of that profit. The second largest quarter in Apple history. And yet, the fact is, Apple’s holiday quarter was down five percent from the previous-year’s holiday quarter, and iPhone revenue dropped 15 percent year-over-year. And when the iPhone is hurting, Apple is hurting.

Here are some observations from Apple’s financial results for its fiscal first quarter of 2019 and Tuesday’s customary hourlong conference call between Apple CEO Tim Cook and CFO Luca Maestri and a gaggle of Wall Street financial analysts.

(Podcast) Rebound 223: A Whole Cajoodle of SKUs

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-30 15:31

This week, on the irreverent tech podcast that’s recording way too late at night, we discuss this week’s Group FaceTime bug, rumors of an Apple game-subscription service, Apple getting screwed (or not) in US manufacturing, and this here very site’s annual Report Card of how Apple’s doing. Plus, Lex has important news for us about his MacBook’s power adapter, and plans continue apace for the first ever Rebound Mario Kart tournament.

Parts of Apple Music will be available for free on American Airlines

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-30 15:27

If it seems like just that Apple was talking up how it wants to grow its Services business, well, it was. One way it’s going to do that, apparently, is by partnering with American Airlines, letting Apple Music subscribers have access to their libraries, Beats 1’s livestream, or certain playlists 1 without having to purchase Wi-Fi service.

This isn’t the first time an airline’s done something like this; JetBlue, for example, has a deal with Amazon that lets you watch Amazon Video content for free. Cell carriers, too, have offered deals where certain streaming services don’t count against data caps.

The American Airlines deal kicks off this Friday. If you’re an Apple Music subscriber flying the friendly skies, let us know how it goes.

  1. Some of these playlists are described as “city-themed” and frankly, I want to see the Boston one.  ↩

Apple puts the kibosh on Facebook data-mining app (updated)

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-30 14:53, modified at 15:37

Yesterday, it came to light that Facebook had distributed an app via Apple’s developer enterprise program that paid users—including teenagers—$20 per month to essentially give up their data. According to Recode, Apple’s now revoking the certificates used to distribute the app:

Apple’s response, via a PR rep this morning: “We designed our Enterprise Developer Program solely for the internal distribution of apps within an organization. Facebook has been using their membership to distribute a data-collecting app to consumers, which is a clear breach of their agreement with Apple. Any developer using their enterprise certificates to distribute apps to consumers will have their certificates revoked, which is what we did in this case to protect our users and their data.”

The reason that Facebook used the enterprise certificate was because it’s an end-run around the App Store policies, which prohibit this. In fact, the app in question appears to be a superficially retuned version of the Onavo VPN app that Facebook was distributing on the store last August.

In almost any other circumstance, this is a violation that would probably lead to all of a developer’s apps getting pulled, but, well, this is Facebook. Not that Apple is afraid to pull large developers’ apps from their store (cf. the Tumblr incident of last fall). But Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp are so ubiquitous that the blowback from users who don’t understand why they can’t find or access those apps would likely be more trouble than it’s worth for Apple.

Update: Apple has apparently revoked all of Facebook’s enterprise certificates, including the ones it uses to distribute apps to its employees internally, creating a significant amount of havoc for the company. (Thanks to Joe Rosensteel.)

UAE intel unit used iPhone exploit to spy on rivals

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-30 13:26

Reuters has a pretty sobering story about an intelligence unit inside the United Arab Emirates that apparently utilized an iMessage exploit to compromise targets’ iPhones without any action on the users parts:

Three former operatives said they understood Karma to rely, at least in part, on a flaw in Apple’s messaging system, iMessage. They said the flaw allowed for the implantation of malware on the phone through iMessage, even if the phone’s owner didn’t use the iMessage program, enabling the hackers to establish a connection with the device.

To initiate the compromise, Karma needed only to send the target a text message — the hack then required no action on the part of the recipient. The operatives could not determine how the vulnerability worked.

The story suggests that Apple software updates made the exploit “far less effective” after 2017, though it notably doesn’t say that security hole was completely closed.

The hack allowed access to a broad range of data on the targets’ phones, including messages, location data, and photos, and was used on diplomats, activists, and foreign leaders. The provenance of the tool was unknown, even to those using it.

(I expect this piece to elicit some comparisons to the Bloomberg server piece from last fall, but note that the Reuters piece includes at least one named former operative.)

Security services are, of course, always going to be on the cutting edge of these kinds of vulnerabilities, but coming as it does on the heels of Apple’s FaceTime bug, this is an unpleasant one-two punch for Apple’s prominent stance on data privacy.

[hat tip James Thomson]

This is Tim: Transcript of Apple's January 29 call with analysts

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-29 22:27, modified on 2019-01-30 01:13

On January 29, Apple’s executives spoke with analysts on a conference call following its release of its quarterly results. This is a complete transcript of those statements.

Tim Cook: Thank you Nancy and thanks to everyone for joining us today. This isn’t the first time you’ve heard from us regarding the December quarter. So the first thing I want to do is provide some final results and connect those back to the letter we shared at the beginning of the month.

As you know, our December quarter revenue was below our original expectations, coming in at 84.3 billion dollars. That’s down 5 percent from a year ago, or down 3 percent adjusting for foreign exchange. We noted four factors that would impact our results when we provided guidance in November: different iPhone launch timing from a year ago, FX headwinds, supply constraints on certain products, and macroeconomic conditions in emerging markets.

One of those factors, weak macro conditions in some emerging markets was significantly more severe than we originally foresaw, especially in Greater China. As our letter noted, that challenge was compounded by quarterly iPhone upgrades that were lower than we anticipated.

We’ll returned to upgrades in a moment, but I first want to say a bit more about our business in greater China. Our revenue there was down by 4.8 billion dollars from last year, with declines across iPhone, Mac, and iPad. Most of the shortfall relative to our original guidance and over 100 percent of our worldwide year-over-year revenue decline was driven by our performance in Greater China. Despite iPhone upgrades being lower than we anticipated, our business grew outside of China, including new records in the Americas, Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, and our Rest of Asia Pacific segment. We had record performance in large markets, including the United States, Canada, Mexico, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Korea.

In the letter we shared earlier this month, we said we are proud to participate in the Chinese marketplace and that we believe our business has a bright future there over time. But I think some of that got lost. So I want to share a bit more detail on the positives we see in China.

We generated record December-quarter services revenue in Greater China, fueled by an amazing ecosystem with over two and a half million registered iOS developers. We saw very strong results from our wearables business there, with revenues up over 50 percent. We also continued to grow our total active installed base by adding new customers. In fact, more than two thirds of all customers in China who bought a Mac or an iPad during the December quarter were purchasing that product for the first time. Finally, for perspective, despite the challenging December quarter, our revenue from China grew slightly for the full calendar year. Macroeconomic factors will come and go, but we see great upside in continuing to focus on the things that we can control.

Returning to iPhone, I’d like to talk about our results in the context of those lower than expected upgrades. iPhone XR, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max are by far the best iPhones we’ve ever shipped. They share advanced technologies including the A12 Bionic, the most powerful chip ever in a smartphone, with our next-generation Neural Engine capable of 5 trillion operations per second. These are also completely modern iPhones with stunning large full-screen displays and Face ID, the most secure authentication of any kind available in a smartphone. And the cameras are simply amazing. With portrait mode and depth control to allow users to create studio-quality photos, as well as stunning 4K video, opening a whole new era of photography. We couldn’t be more proud of our iPhone line up and our industry-leading customer satisfaction. We wouldn’t change our position for anyone’s.

Now, our customers are holding on to their older iPhones a bit longer than in the past. When you pair this with the macroeconomic factors, particularly in emerging markets, it resulted in iPhone revenue that was down 15 percent from last year. Our iPhone results accounted for significantly more than our entire year-over-year revenue decline. In fact, outside of iPhone our business grew strongly, by 19 percent.

So what’s behind this? It’s important to understand what’s going on from the customer perspective at the point of purchase. We believe that is the sum of several factors. First, foreign exchange: the relative strength of the U.S. dollar has made our products more expensive in many parts of the world. In Turkey, for example, the Lira depreciated by 33 percent over the course of calendar 2018, and in the December quarter our revenue there was down by almost 700 million dollars from the previous year.

Second, subsidies: for various reasons iPhone subsidies are becoming increasingly less common. In Japan, for example, iPhone purchases were traditionally subsidized by carriers and bundled with service contracts. Competitive promotional activity frequently increased the amount of subsidy during key periods. Today, local regulations have significantly restricted those subsidies as well as related competition. As a result, we estimate that less than half of iPhones sold in Japan in Q1 of this year were subsidized compared to about three-quarters a year ago, and that the total value of those subsidies have come down as well.

Third, our battery replacement program. For millions of customers, we made it inexpensive and efficient to replace the battery and hold onto their existing iPhones a bit longer. Some people have suggested that we shouldn’t have done this because of the potential impact on upgrades, but we strongly believe it was the right thing to do for our customers.

What’s very important, however, is that in spite of these factors, our total active installed base of devices has grown from 1.3 billion at the end of January of 2018, to 1.4 billion by the end of December, reaching a new all-time high for each of the main product categories and for all five of our geographic segments. Not only is our large and growing installed base a powerful testament to the satisfaction and loyalty of our customers but it’s also fueling our fast growing services business. In fact, services revenue set an all-time record of 10.9 billion dollars in the December quarter, growing 19 percent. We not only generated our highest global services revenue ever, but we also had all-time records across multiple categories of services, including the App Store, Apple Pay, cloud services, and our App Store search ad business, and we had a December quarter record for Apple Care. And I’m very proud to say that nearly 16 years after launching the iTunes Store, we generated our highest quarterly music revenue ever thanks to the great popularity of Apple Music, now with over 50 million paid subscribers.

The App Store wrapped up its best year ever, with record holiday period results propelled by the biggest Christmas Day and Christmas week ever. Customers also spent over 322 million dollars on New Year’s Day alone, setting a new single day record for both the number of customers and purchase volume. It was also a great holiday season for Apple Pay, with over 1.8 billion transactions in the quarter, well over twice the volume of the year-ago quarter. Merchant adoption continues to reach new milestones. Customers can now use Apple Pay with iPhone and Apple Watch at nearly 3000 Speedway locations, while all Target, Taco Bell, and Jack in the Box stores will be accepting Apple Pay soon. We launched Apple Pay in three new countries in the December quarter, Germany, Belgium, and Kazakhstan, and it’s now live in 27 markets around the world. The roll out in Germany has been a huge success, with Deutsche Bank reporting more activations for Apple Pay in one week then for Android in an entire year. This is yet another example of what’s possible when you bring together Apple’s world-class hardware, software, and ecosystem with our engaged and active user base. Shoppers around the world love Apple Pay, and it has increasingly become an indispensable part of daily life.

Revenue from cloud services continues to grow rapidly, with year-over-year revenue up over 40 percent in the December quarter. And readership of Apple News set a new record with over 85 million monthly active users in the three countries where we’ve launched, the United States, the UK, and Australia. Here in the U.S., the latest data from ComScore shows that Apple News has the largest audience of all news apps. And the international audience will continue to grow with our first-ever bilingual launch in Canada, available to customers later this quarter.

In summary, we’re very happy not only with the growth, but also the breadth of our services portfolio. Our revenue from services has grown from less than 8 billion dollars in calendar 2010 to over 41 billion in calendar 2018. The largest category represents less than 30 percent of total services revenue, and the new services we’ve launched in the last few years are all experiencing tremendous growth.

We had our best quarter ever for Mac revenue, which was up 9 percent, fueled by our new MacBook Air and Mac Mini introduced in October. The MacBook Air includes a beautiful new Retina Display, Touch ID, and Force Touch trackpad, while the new Mac Mini provides a powerful, flexible solution for everything from home automation to giant render farms.

iPad revenue was up 17 percent, its highest growth rate in almost six years. Powered by the new iPad Pro, released in November. With its edge-to-edge Liquid Retina Display, Face ID, and A12x Bionic chip, the new iPad Pro has been described by reviewers as a tablet with no equal, and the most powerful mobile device ever made.

We also had our best quarter ever for Wearables, Home, and Accessories, with 33 percent growth in total and almost 50 percent growth from wearables, thanks to strong sales of both Apple Watch and AirPods.

We don’t measure our success in 90-day increments. We manage Apple for the long term, and when we consider the keys to our success over time, there are three that stand out. Our highly satisfied and loyal customers, our large and growing active installed base, and at the heart of it all, our deeply ingrained culture of innovation. Thanks to all this, our ecosystem is stronger than ever before.

We have an amazingly talented team creating hardware, software and services, optimizing each of them to create an unparalleled user experience. Apple Watch is a powerful example of that. It’s humbling to read e-mails from customers around the world telling us how Apple Watch has dramatically changed their lives by motivating them to be more fit and active, by alerting them to potentially serious health conditions such as a-fib, and by helping them in times of crisis with features like fall detection and emergency S.O.S. We believe we are just beginning to see the impact we can make to improving health, and are deeply inspired by the possibilities.

Another example is the work we’re doing with silicon. We’ve embedded machine learning directly into the silicon with our A12 Bionic chip. Our custom neural engine not only provides power efficiency and incredible performance in a very small package, but it also enables processing of data and transactions directly on the device. This means iPhone can recognize patterns, make predictions, and learn from experience, and it does all this while keeping personal information private. This is a powerful example of how innovation and privacy can go hand in hand at a time when these issues are increasingly important to our users.

We are undertaking and accelerating a number of initiatives to improve our results. It’s not in our DNA to just stand around and wait for macroeconomic conditions to improve. One such initiative is making it simple to trade in an iPhone in our stores, and raising awareness of this opportunity. Because of the quality and durability of iPhones, they maintain significant residual value, making trade-ins a great opportunity. It’s not only great for the environment, it’s great for the customer as their existing phone acts as a subsidy for their new phone, and it’s great for developers, as a phone that is traded in and redistributed can help grow our active installed base. Beginning last week, we started making it easier for people to pay for their phones over time with installment payments, and we’re working on rolling out this program to more geographies as soon as we can.

We are as confident as ever in the fundamental strength of our business, and we have a very strong pipeline of products and services with some exciting announcements coming later this year. Apple innovates like no other company on Earth. And we are not taking our foot off the gas. We’ll continue to invest through near-term headwinds just as we always have, and will emerge stronger as a result.

Now for more details on our December quarter results, I’d like to turn the call over to Luca.

Luca Maestri: Thank you Tim. Good afternoon everyone. As Tim said, revenue for the December quarter was 84.3 billion. This result was below our expectations, but we were able to set new all-time revenue records in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, and Korea.

Our results were especially strong in the U.S., where revenue was up by more than one and a half billion dollars compared to a year ago, and in several markets where revenue grew by double digits including, among others, Germany, Spain, Poland, Mexico, Malaysia, and Vietnam.

Looking at product categories, iPhone revenue declined 15 percent from a year ago, where revenue from the rest of our business grew 19 percent, to an all time record, including our best results ever for services, for wearables, and for Mac. Company gross margin was 38 percent.

This quarter for the first time, we’re making an important new disclosure to our investors, as we believe it will foster a better understanding of our business. We are now reporting, on a quarterly basis, gross margin for products in aggregate, and for services in aggregate. Products gross margin was 34.3 percent and services gross margin was 62.8 percent. On a sequential basis, products gross margin increased 60 basis points due to positive leverage from the holiday quarter, partially offset by higher cost structures as we launched several new products, and by headwinds from foreign exchange. Services gross margin also increased 170 basis points sequentially, due to favorable mix and leverage partially offset by foreign exchange. While both products and services gross margins improved sequentially, total company gross margin was down 30 basis points due to a different mix between products and services.

Net income was 20 billion, about flat to last year, and diluted earnings per share with an all time record at $4.18, an increase of seven and a half percent over last year. Operating cash flow was also very strong at 26.7 billion.

Let me provide more color for the various products categories. iPhone revenue was 52 billion. On a geographic basis, most of the decline from last year came from greater China and other emerging markets, where difficult macro and foreign exchange conditions affected our results. We also believe that the reduction of carrier subsidies and our battery replacement program had an impact in a number of countries around the world. And as Tim mentioned, we had a lower number of upgrades than we had anticipated at the beginning of the quarter.

However, our global active installed base of iPhone continues to grow and has reached an all time high at the end of December. We are disclosing that number now for the first time, and it has surpassed 900 million devices, up year over year in each of our five geographic segments, and growing almost 75 million in the last 12 months alone. We plan to provide information on the iPhone installed base as well as total installed base on a periodic basis.

Customer satisfaction and loyalty for iPhone continue to be outstanding, and are the highest in the industry. The latest survey of U.S. consumers from 451 Research indicates customer satisfaction of 99 percent for iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max combined. And among business buyers who plan to purchase smartphones in the March quarter, 81 percent plan to purchase iPhones. Based on the latest information from Kantar, iPhone experiences a 90 percent customer loyalty rating for iPhone customers in the U.S., 23 points above the next highest brand measured.

Turning to services, it was our best quarter ever, with revenue of 10.9 billion, up 19 percent year over year, with December quarter records in all five of our geographic segments. Many services categories set new all-time revenue records, and we are on track to achieve our goal of doubling our fiscal 2016 services revenue by 2020. To be clear, and as we have already explained 90 days ago, our 2020 goal remains unchanged and it excludes the impact of the revenue reclassification between products and services we recorded in connection with ASC 606, the new revenue recognition accounting standard that we adopted at the beginning of fiscal 19.

The level of engagement of our customers in our ecosystem continues to grow. The number of transacting accounts in our digital stores reached a new all-time high during the quarter, with the number of paid accounts growing by strong double digits over last year. And we now have over 360 million paid subscriptions across our services portfolio, an increase of 120 million versus a year ago. Given the continued strength and momentum in this part of the business, we now expect the number of paid subscriptions to surpass half a billion during 2020. Our subscription business has become very large and diversified, covering many different categories from entertainment to health and fitness to lifestyle. In fact, more than 30,000 third-party subscription apps are available today on the App Store, and the largest of them accounts for only 0.3 percent of our total services revenue.

Next, I’d like to talk about the Mac. We saw great response to the new MacBook Air and Mac Mini that we introduced in October, which helped drive a 9 percent increase in Mac revenue over last year to a new all-time record. Mac revenue was up in the vast majority of countries we track, with double-digit growth in many large markets, such as the U.S., Western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, Japan, Korea, and South Asia. Our active installed base of Macs reached an all-time high, and half of all the customers purchasing Macs in the December quarter were new to Mac.

We also have great results for iPad, with revenue up 17 percent from a year ago and strong performance of both iPad and iPad Pro, and generated double digit growth in four of our five geographic segments. Similar to the Mac, our installed base of iPads has reached a new all-time high, and among customers purchasing iPad during the quarter, half were new to iPad. The most recent consumer survey from 451 Research measured a 94 percent customer satisfaction rating for iPad overall, with iPad Pro models scoring as high as 100 percent. Among business customers who plan to purchase tablets in the March quarter, 68 percent plan to purchase iPads.

Wearables, home, and accessories revenue grew 33 percent, to a new all-time record in each of our geographic segments. Revenue from this category was up over 1.8 billion compared to a year ago thanks to the amazing popularity of Apple Watch and AirPods, both of which were supply constrained as we exited the quarter. Based on revenue over the past four quarters, our wearables business is approaching the size of a Fortune 200 company.

Our retail and online stores generated strong results for Mac and iPad, an all-time record performance from services, and from wearables. Following the launch of the new iPhone trade-in campaign, our stores more than doubled the volume of iPhones traded in compared to last year, reaching an all-time high in Q1. We added Thailand to our footprint with a beautiful store in Bangkok and we opened a stunning new store on Champs Elysees in Paris, exiting the quarter with 506 physical stores in 22 countries.

In enterprise, across multiple industries, our technology continues to enable businesses to do their best work. In healthcare, iPhones and iOS apps continue to streamline and support clinical workflows, communications, and care delivery across leading health systems including Johns Hopkins Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Stanford Health Care, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

In manufacturing, SKF the world’s largest producers of bearings and seals, has transformed their manufacturing processes on iOS and iPhone with incredible success. With custom iOS apps available to production operators across their worldwide locations, SKF has reduced production errors from 20 percent to zero while saving 70 percent in system-related time. Apple technology has made possible a simplified user experience integrating the SAP cloud platform, yielding better accuracy, efficiency, and employee experiences across the board.

We’re also seeing great innovation in the construction industry, with iPad and new third-party apps made for iOS. For instance, Procore Technologies has introduced an app to help decrease building errors on the job site. By using Metal in Split View with the iPad camera, construction workers can compare building plants and 3D models to what is actually being built in real time. This new iOS app reduces wasted raw materials and helps keep building projects on time and on budget.

Let me now turn to our cash position. We ended the quarter with 245 billion in cash plus marketable securities. We also had 102.8 billion in term debt and 12 billion in commercial paper outstanding, for a net cash position of 130 billion. As we explained in the past, it is our plan to reach a net cash neutral position over time. As part of this plan, we returned over 13 billion to our investors during the December quarter. We repurchased 38 million Apple shares for 8.2 billion through open market transactions and we paid 3.6 billion in dividends and equivalents. Consistent with our historical cadence, we plan to provide an update on our overall capital return program when we report our March quarter results.

As we move ahead into the March quarter, I’d like to review our outlook, which includes the types of forward looking information that Nancy referred to at the beginning of the call. We expect revenue to be between 55 and 59 billion dollars. This range reflects a negative year-over-year impact of 1.3 billion from foreign exchange, which represents about 210 basis points of last year’s revenue, and a more uncertain macroeconomic environment than a year ago, especially in emerging markets. We expect gross margin to be between 37 and 38 percent. On a sequential basis, this range reflects seasonal loss of leverage and a 60 basis point favorable impact from foreign exchange partially offset by commodity cost savings. We expect OpEx to be between 8.5 and 8.6 billion. We expect OI&E to be about 300 million, and we expect the tax rate to be about 17 percent. Also today our Board of Directors has declared a cash dividend of 73 cents per share of common stock, payable on February 14 2019 to shareholders of record as of February 11 2019. With that I’d like to open the call to questions.

Katy Huberty, Morgan Stanley: Services growth did decelerate from from the growth rates in recent quarters. So can you talk about the factors that played into that slower growth, and then, appreciate the new disclosure around paid subscribers. But if you compare what you added in 2018 versus what you expect to add over the next two years that implies a slowdown in annual net new subscribers, so should we be thinking about services as a lower-growth segment than what you experienced in 2018?

Luca Maestri: Thanks, Katy, let me let me take that one. First of all, when we talk about the services business, it is very important to start from the momentum that we have. As you know, we have set an ambitious target for ourselves to double the size of our business from fiscal 16 to 2020, which implied at the time a 19 percent CAGR. So far we’ve been able to grow about 20 percent, in fiscal 18 we grew 22 percent, so we are on track to achieve our objective. And it’s important to understand what is driving the growth of the business. First of all, it’s our installed base. As we just told you, the installed base continues to grow very nicely. It has reached 1,4 billion active devices at the end of December, and really very little of our services revenues driven by what we sell in the last 90 days. The second factor for the growth of the services business is that within this installed base, the percentage of users who are paying for at least one service is growing very strongly. This is due to several factors.

First of all, we’re offering more and more services. During the last few years, as you know, we’ve launched Apple Music, Apple Pay, and advertising service for our developers on the App Store. All these businesses are growing very strongly.

Second, we are making it easier for our customers to transact on our digital stores. We accept many more payment methods today which are very common in certain countries around the world. We’ve also increased the distribution coverage for many of these services. We’re bringing AppleCare to more points of sale around the world. We are launching Apple Pay in more and more markets. And so on.

Thirdly, as you as you mentioned, our subscriptions are becoming a very large portion of our business, and they’re growing very well above services average. And the fact that, you know, we are saying that we will surpass half a billion during 2020, we’re not putting a specific date during 2020 but I think you’ve seen over recent quarters that we’ve been adding about hundred and twenty million on a year over year basis for a number of quarters now. And this is an incredible, staggering number, right, when you think about it.

We’re also broadening the scope of many of these services. If you take Apple Pay as an example, it started off as the most convenient, most private, and most secure way to make a payment in a store or in an app. Then we took Apple Pay to Safari. Then we started a peer-to-peer service, and we are launching it in new markets across the world every quarter so we are broadening that scope. And of course, similar to what we’ve done in the past, in the last three years we launched several new services. We’re also looking to launch new services going forward that we believe will provide great value to our users and we’re really very excited about the opportunities that we see in front of us.

I think you’re referring to the deceleration in the growth rate that we’ve seen in the December quarter. And I think you’re referring back to the growth that we reported in September. I think an important point I need to make, and I think it’s helpful that you asked the question, is that a portion of this deceleration is truly just a reclassification of the amortization of free services that we’ve made in connection with the adoption of the new revenue recognition standard. And as we explained 90 days ago, this amortization of free services in the past was reported on the products and now gets reported on the services. The reclassification is actually diluted to our growth rate, because the amortization of free services is a relatively stable number, which gets applied to a growing base. So this reclassification reduces our growth rate versus the previous classification. This factor by itself represents roughly one-third of the deceleration that you’ve seen. We talked about 27 percent growth in the September quarter—with the reclassification that growth rate was about 24 and a half percent. So that explains about a third of that deceleration.

There are, I would say, three factors that explain this difference between the 24 and a half to the 19 percent. The first one is that foreign exchange plays a role. Roughly 60 percent of our services business is outside the United States. And as you know the U.S. dollar has appreciated in recent months. And in general, we tend not to reprice our services for foreign exchange on a very frequent basis. The second factor is a well-known issue around the App Store in China. The App Store in China is a large business for us. We believe this issue around the approval of new game titles is temporary in nature, but clearly is affecting our business right now. And then thirdly, we are seeing some level of deceleration in AppleCare, which has had very, very strong growth during fiscal 18, where we’re starting to lap some of the increase in distribution coverage that we put in place recently and the channel fill of Apple components that happened when we increased the distribution coverage. But in general we are, you know, very very pleased with 19 percent growth. And we think that the business will continue to grow nicely going forward.

Katy Huberty: Thank you for that color. Just a quick follow up, Luca. Share repurchases in the December quarter were well below the run rate from the June and September quarters. How much did the weaker quarter play into your ability to carry out the buyback at the same level? And what should we think about is the right run rate going forward?

Luca Maestri: Well we’ve always said that we are very committed to executing our program. We have done almost 250 billion dollars of repurchases from the beginning of the program. But we’ve also said that we want to execute the program in an efficient, effective, I would say disciplined manner, and that takes into account also overall market conditions. So, that’s what we did during the course of the December quarter. Our fundamental view remains the same. We are optimistic about our future and we think there is great value in our stock and so we will continue to execute the program. We will continue to report at the end of every quarter. And, by the way, when we report our March quarter results we will also talk about the next step in our capital return program which is something that we do traditionally in the spring.

Steve Milunovich, Wolfe Research: Some have the perception that you priced the new products, the new iPhones, too high. What what have you learned about price elasticity, and do you feel that perhaps you pushed the envelope a little bit too far and might have to bring that down in the future?

Tim Cook: Steve, it’s Tim. If you look at what we did this past year, we priced the iPhone XS in the U.S. the same as we’d priced the iPhone X a year ago. The iPhone XS Max, which was new, was a hundred dollars more than the XS, and then we priced the XR right in the middle of where the entry iPhone 8 and entry iPhone 8 Plus had been priced. So it’s actually a pretty small difference in the United States compared to last year. However, the foreign exchange issue that Luca spoke of in the call amplified that difference in international markets, in particular the emerging markets, which tended to move much more significantly versus the dollar. And so what we have done in January in some locations and some products is essentially absorb part or all of the foreign currency move as compared to last year and therefore get close or perhaps right on the local price from a year ago. So yes, I do think the price is a factor. I think part of it is the FX piece, and then secondly, in some markets, as I had talked about in my prepared remarks, the subsidy is probably the bigger of the issues in the developed markets. I had mentioned Japan, but also even in this country, even though the subsidy has gone away for a period of time, if you’re a customer that your last purchase was a 6S or a 6 or in some cases even a 7, you may have paid 199 dollars for it, and now the unbundled world it’s obviously much more than that. And so we are working through those and we’ve got a number of actions to address that, including the trade-in and and the installment payments, which which I had mentioned as well.

Steve Milunovich, Wolfe Research: I know that you’re not giving units going forward, but you said you might make qualitative comments. I was wondering if you have a comment, particularly on the ASP on a year-over-year basis.

Luca Maestri: Well, Steve, we did mention on the call last quarter that the different timing of our phone launches would affect the year over year compares. If you remember, our top models the XS and XS Max shipped during the September quarter, which placed the channel fill and the initial sales in that quarter, while last year the iPhone X shipped in Q1 in the December quarter, placing the channel fill and initial sales in the December quarter. So we knew that this would create a difficult compare for Q1 of 19. And this is essentially what happened. It was pretty much in line with our expectations. To give you more color, I would say that the XR is our most popular model and its followed by XS Max and then the XS.

Toni Sacconaghi, Bernstein: Luca, looks like the midpoint of your Q2 revenue guidance implies the steepest Q1 to Q2 sequential decline in iPhone revenues in history. It also implies a year-over-year deceleration in iPhone revenues. And I’m wondering if you can comment about whether that’s conservatism, whether you’re entering the quarter with a high level of channel inventory and maybe you can comment explicitly on that, or whether you actually think the macroeconomic conditions are getting worse.

Luca Maestri: Yeah. Three questions there. The first one is, question around conservatism. As we always do, when we provide a range, it’s a range that we believe we’re going to fall within. We’ve done pretty well with that up until the December quarter, right? I mean, we didn’t miss in years and years, so that’s the idea, there isn’t a specific level of conservatism, we believe that this is the range where we are going to fall within.

On channel inventory, as you know our historical pattern for iPhone channel inventory is that typically we increase inventory in Q1 and we decrease in Q2 and we think this year will be similar and we’ve exited the December quarter with levels of inventory that we are comfortable with. So that leaves us with the reality that our iPhone performance in Q1 from a revenue standpoint was a minus 15 percent, and we expected the key factors that Tim mentioned during the call affecting iPhone performance in Q1, will also have an effect on Q2, starting with the strong U.S. dollar environment. On a year-over-year basis, the negative impact from currency is going to be about 1.3 billion. So that’s about a bit more than 2 points versus last year’s revenue. So that obviously plays a role. And the macroeconomic environment, particularly in emerging markets, will continue to be there. On the positive side, we expect that we will continue to grow revenue nicely from the rest of the business which is not iPhone.

Toni Sacconaghi, Bernstein: Tim, at your September event, Lisa Jackson, an Apple V.P. stated the company needed to “design products to last as long as possible.” And Apple’s clearly doing that by helping with the battery-replacement program, iOS working on an older range of products, etc. But I guess the question is, why doesn’t that mean that replacement or upgrade cycles for iPhones should continue to extend going forward, in part because that’s almost one of your objectives? And maybe to that end, maybe you can help us understand what iPhone’s average replacement cycle might be today, and how that may have changed over the last three to five years? And again, why wouldn’t you expect it to elongate over time, given some of the aforementioned things. Thank you.

Tim Cook: We do design our products to last as long as possible. Some people hold onto those for the life of the product, and some people trade them in, and then that phone is then redistributed to someone else. So it doesn’t necessarily follow that one leads to the other. The upgrade cycle has extended, there’s no doubt about that. We’ve said several times, I think, on this call and before, that the upgrades for the quarter were less than we anticipated due to all the reasons that we had had mentioned. So where it goes in the future, I don’t know, but I’m convinced that making a great product that is high quality, is the best thing for the customer and we work for the user, and so that’s the way that we look at it.

Shannon Cross, Cross Research: I wanted to ask about the trajectory of services gross margin, up about 500 basis points it appears year-over-year. You talked a little bit about sequential, but what’s driving the improvement, or will it be volatile as we go through the year depending on quarters and mix? Just, whatever color you can give us as we start to the forecast this.

Luca Maestri: I think you’ve seen that services gross margins increased on a year over year basis by a significant amount. Let me start with sequential, because I think it’s probably most relevant for us. Sequentially we increased 170 basis points. It’s a business that is growing nicely, so we get good support from our scale. Some of these services are scaling quickly, and so we tend to expand gross margins there. And also we had favorable mix. As you probably know, we have a very broad portfolio of services. Some of them tend to be accretive to the average gross margin for services, also because of the way we account for them. For example, on the App Store we book revenue on a net basis and therefore the gross margins tend to be accretive. But we also have services that are very successful that are below the average for the services business. And so depending on how these separate businesses do in the marketplace, we’re going to be seeing some level of movement going forward on services margins. But you’ve seen that for the last 12 months, they’ve gone up nicely, 450 basis points. And sequentially, they’ve gone up 170 basis points. But I wouldn’t draw necessarily a conclusion on how this services gross margin is going to move over time. We will report of course at the end of every quarter. But it’s important to keep in mind it’s a broad portfolio with very different gross margin profiles within the portfolio. It is important for us to grow gross margin dollars and if at times we grow services that are at a level of gross margins which is below average, as long as this is good for the customer, and as long as we generate gross margin dollars, we’re going to be very pleased.

Shannon Cross: Tim can you talk a bit about video? You’ve signed a myriad of deals. There was announcement about their TV app directly on Samsung. So, you know, perhaps when this comes out you’ll be a multi-platform. I’m just curious how you view the opportunity in video. And, you know, I guess assuming you can just leverage the cost that you’ve made already it should be accretive to margin, I would think.

Tim Cook: Shannon, we see huge changes in customer behavior taking place now and we think that it will accelerate as the year goes by, to sort of the breakdown of the cable bundle that’s been talked about for years. And I think that that it’ll likely take place at a much faster pace this year. And so we’re going to participate in that in a variety of ways. One of those is through Apple TV and you’re well familiar with that product. The second way is the AirPlay 2, which we have as you just pointed out, we have support on a number of different third-party TVs, and we’re excited about that. It makes the experience in the living room with the people using our products even better. We think that people are really going to like that.

Another way is, of course, all the third-party video subscriptions that are on the store. We are participating in this today and I would guess that that’s going to accelerate into the future as the bundle breaks down and people begin to buy likely multiple services in place of their current cable bundle.

And then finally, original content. We will participate in the original content world, we have signed a multi-year partnership with Oprah. But today I’m not ready to extend that conversation beyond that point. We’ve hired some great people that I have super amount of confidence in, and they’re working really hard, and we’ll have something to say on that later.

Walter Piecyk, BTIG: I just have a question on the free services. Can you just describe how the math works on that? Is it that the free services are non-cash revenue that’s getting booked in the services revenue with no cost, and the costs come out of products? Can you just run us through what the current state is versus how you were accounting for that before.

Luca Maestri: Yeah, in essence when we sell a product at a certain price, we make an assumption, we estimate the value that can be associated to providing free services. In our case, it’s providing maps services, providing Siri, and providing free iCloud to all the customers that purchase our product. And so we calculate an estimated value. That value gets deferred, and gets amortized over the estimated period of time that we deliver the free services. In the past, that deferral and subsequent amortization was reported on the products. Now in connection with the new revenue recognition standard, we are reclassifying essentially that amortization from products revenue to service revenue. So total revenue has not changed. We just report that estimated value under the services category. We also reclassify the cost that we need to incur to provide those services. So the gross margin rate of services is clearly significantly dilutive to the overall services margin. I hope I’ve helped with that.

Walter Piecyk, BTIG: So it’s in the services gross margin. Got it. And my second question is just, when you think about growth in services, you have selling more to existing paid subscription customers or it’s the 300 going to a half a billion. If you can just talk at a high level, as far as when you look at growth going forward, what is the mix in terms of selling more to existing users, getting new users, and maybe some of the individual services that you see the biggest growth opportunity?

Luca Maestri: I said, essentially what we sell services to is our installed base, so the first driver is growing the installed base. Installed base has grown nicely over the last several years. We’ve added a hundred million in the last 12 months alone. So that’s a first step. Then, within that installed base, of course we want to make sure that there are more people that are so interested in our services that in addition to transacting on those services on a free basis, they also are interested in paying for those services. And I mentioned that the percentage of paid accounts has increased strong double digits. So we want to continue to do that. We want to make it easier for our customers to actually use our services, and so we are accepting more and more payment methods around the world.

And clearly, as you said, the idea of adding new services is very important to us. During the last three years we’ve added Apple Pay, which has been incredibly successful, and it’s a wonderful customer experience. We’ve added Apple Music, where we now have more than 50 million paid subscribers and continues to grow very nicely. And we’ve added a very useful service to our developers, we provide an advertising service for developers on the App Store. The way we’ve added these services in the past, obviously, we’re also very interested in adding new services that can provide great value to our customers in the future. And we don’t want to get into product announcements here but obviously that is part of our strategy.

Apple's dramatic Q1 2019 results

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-29 20:30, modified on 2019-02-04 17:52

Apple on Tuesday announced its latest quarterly results, which featured $84.3 billion in revenue—the company’s second-biggest quarter ever, but down 5 percent from its largest-ever quarter a year ago.

iPhone revenue was down. Services revenue grew 19 percent. The iPad, boosted by the release of the new iPad Pro, grew 17 percent. Mac revenue grew 9 percent and the new Wearables/Home/Accessories—formerly known as Other—grew 33 percent.

In general it’s a positive result after the company had to warn investors that it wouldn’t be able to hit the numbers it forecast back in November.

See a transcript of the analyst call here.

More charts below.

Turn FaceTime off now

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-29 01:53, modified at 04:13

There’s a major bug in FaceTime that gives callers access to your microphone and/or video camera without granting permission. Rene Ritchie has the details, and Apple has issued a statement that this bug will be addressed “later this week.”

In the meantime I’d recommend going to your Settings app and turning off FaceTime altogether. This is really about as bad as it gets.

Update: Looks like Apple has turned off Group FaceTime? Good call.

Apple in 2018: The Six Colors report card

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-28 19:30, modified on 2019-01-31 05:04

Tim Cook in 2018

It’s time for our annual look back on Apple’s performance during the past year, as seen through the eyes of writers, editors, developers, podcasters, and other people who spend an awful lot of time thinking about Apple.

This is the fourth year that I’ve presented this survey to a hand-selected group. They were prompted with 11 different Apple-related subjects, and asked to rate them on a scale from 1 to 5, as well as optionally provide text commentary on their vote. I received 55 replies, with the average results as shown below:

data table

Since I used the same survey as in previous years, I was able to track the change in my panel’s consensus opinion compared to the previous year. The net changes between 2017 and 2018 surveys is displayed below:

data table

Read on for category-by-category grades, trends, and commentary.


Grade: B- (average score: 3.4, median score 3, last year: C)

You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and then you have the Mac in 2019. Casey Liss said, “The Mac was a bit of a rollercoaster.” On the one hand, new products appeared at last. Glenn Fleishman said, “After years of neglect that left me wondering if Apple truly intended to curtail or even kill off the Macintosh… it released significant upgrades for several models.” Charles Arthur said, “All it really needed was a new Mac Pro… everything else was, finally, coherent.” Gabe Weatherhead said, “The Mac quality is slowly turning back toward something Apple can be proud of.” James Thomson said, “It feels like the wheels of progress have been re-attached and are slowly turning again.”

The new Mac mini earned a lot of praise. John Siracusa called it “the only real standout” among new Mac models. Andy Ihnatko said “its presence gives me a little more confidence about the future of the platform. It’s a dull little flat box packed with power and features at a somewhat competitive price… and that’s what the Mac needs.”

There was also praise for the MacBook Air revision. Stephen Hackett said, “The MacBook Air looks like it’s going to be a great machine for the majority of users, even if it is a couple hundred dollars more expensive than I’d like.” John Gruber said, “I like the new retina MacBook Air a lot, but it was overdue by at least a year.”

Still, overall the MacBook line “remains entirely confused,” according to Fraser Speirs. John Siracusa said, “The story of the Mac in 2018 was dominated by a laptop lineup that remains both confusing and unsatisfying.” Adam Engst said, “Apple’s laptop line is even more of a confusing mess than before.”

“I honestly don’t know why [the 13-inch MacBook Pro without Touch Bar] is even being sold—It’s similar for the MacBook… there is no compelling reason this exists. And yet it is still being sold for more than a MacBook Air. I just don’t get it…. The gulf between what Apple charges and what its competitors charge is increasing in a way that doesn’t benefit Apple,” said Christina Warren.

Steven Aquino lamented “a lack of iteration on the Touch Bar.”

And did we mention the MacBook keyboards? Matt Deatherage said, “It defies reason for Apple [to offer] keyboards of inferior design and execution.” John Gruber said, “I may be biased as a writer and a keyboard aficionado, but it used to be the case that Apple’s notebook keyboards were widely hailed as the best in the world… that’s no longer the case and I think that’s a problem.” Shahid Kamal Ahmad said that the major failing of the keyboard was not its feel but “the inherent unreliability of the switches and their propensity to fail from the inevitable ingress of a subatomic particle.”

Most people were largely unmoved by the macOS Mojave update. Dan Moren said, “As an update, Mojave was underwhelming.” But Rich Mogull called it “a solid mid-cycle stability update.” As for those apps that migrated from iOS to the Mac, Stephen Hackett called them “mediocre Mac apps at best” and John Gruber said they range “from not great and a little weird (Home) to downright terrible (the other three).” Dan Moren called them “functional, but that’s really about the best you can say for them.”

Administrators and IT people also had harsh words to say about how changes in Mojave were rolled out, as Andrew Laurence decried late-beta modifications that “dramatically altered Mojave’s behavior in [privacy policy control] areas, to the detriment of users, admins, and developers alike.”


Grade: B+ (average score: 3.9, median score 4, last year: A)

Nobody on our panel really had anything negative to say about iPhone hardware itself. Lex Friedman said, “I literally don’t know how to improve the iPhone—good thing I don’t work at Apple.” If the iPhone XS and XS Max were anything, they were just a little bit boring. Rich Mogull said, “This was a great year for iPhone customers, but perhaps not for Apple itself… Technology is outpacing customer need and phone lifespans are ever-longer, which we saw hurt Apple’s bottom line.”

However, some panelists felt that Apple’s lost a bit of its edge. Shahid Kamal Ahmad said, “I suspect iPhone X might well have been peak iPhone.” Federico Viticci said, “I’m starting to feel like Apple is losing their advantage in mobile photography, and quickly.” Carolina Milanesi said, “There is a lot of innovation both on hardware and software that comes from players that might not be seen by Apple as direct competitors and it will be interesting to see in 2019 if Apple will feel the need to respond to them.”

There was effusive praise for the iPhone XR, which brought most of the features of the iPhone X to a lower price. John Siracusa said, “The iPhone XR gives us a glimpse of what a few well-chosen trade-offs can deliver.” John Gruber said, “After spending a few weeks using an XR full-time, I honestly question whether its LCD isn’t better than the XS’s OLED for my needs.”

Steven Aquino said, “Believe it or not, my blue iPhone XR was my favorite Apple product of last year.” Peter Cohen said, “Apple prices its flagship phones out of the reach of a lot of consumers, so I thought the iPhone XR was a smart addition to the lineup.”

iOS 12 as an update was also generally praised. Josh Centers called it “a much-needed and much-welcome sprucing up of iOS.” Marco Arment deemed it “excellent.” John Gruber called it “one of my favorite iOS updates for iPhone in years.”

Many members of the panel expressed concern about the disappearance of the iPhone SE from Apple’s product line. Glenn Fleishman said, “The failure to refresh the iPhone SE feels like a strategy to move people into a new generation of phones in keeping with Apple’s general lack of interest of keeping ties to the past, even ones that please customers.” Charles Arthur said, “The vanishing of the iPhone SE left a hole at the bottom of the range, which wasn’t filled, and means there’s a significant hole in the low-cost end for countries such as India.”

Dan Moren said, “I get that the market seems to be demanding larger phones, but there are so many of them that I wonder if the small-phone market is getting underrepresented.” Philip Michaels said, “The lack of a new version of the iPhone SE means there was no low-cost, compact phone for people who value both qualities.” Andrew Laurence said, “I enthusiastically use an iPhone SE and actively dislike the larger form factors… the iPhone line has skated to where my dollars are not.”

And then there are the high prices, a theme that came up continually. Fraser Speirs said, “I think Apple has gone beyond the boundary of what people are willing to bear in price.” Stephen Hackett said, “It feels like the iPhone may be a crossroads—can Apple continue to charge so much for these devices?”

Aleen Simms said, “Apple needs to reevaluate its market strategy… their current pricing is cost-prohibitive for many people.” Merlin Mann said, “I feel like iPhone’s price umbrella is developing some copious holes.”


Grade: A- (average score: 4.0, median score 4, last year: A-)

Our panelists spoke with one voice when it came to the iPad: praise for the new iPad Pro hardware but condemnation of the lack of iOS features to let it shine.

Jim Dalrymple said, “The 2018 iPad is the culmination of years of Apple making the iPad its own platform.” Carolina Milanesi said, “The biggest issue Apple has is perception of whether or not the iPad Pro is as good as a computer… mostly that perception is driven by software rather than hardware.” Fraser Speirs said, “The new iPad pros are delightful hardware but they’re the same software that they always were.”

John Siracusa said, “The new iPad Pros are phenomenal pieces of hardware that place Apple firmly at the top of the class when it comes to mobile computing power… It’s a shame that iOS hasn’t kept pace with the iPad’s hardware prowess.” Christina Warren said, “The future of Apple desktops is probably the iPad, and the hardware is already there—now we just need the software to catch up.”

What about that USB-C port? Once again, it’s all about hardware waiting around for the software to catch up. Stephen Hackett said, “The iPad Pro’s USB-C port may as well be a portal to the Land of Expectant Hope.” Gabe Weatherhead said, “The iPad desperately needs a new iOS optimized for working on a tablet with a keyboard, including better options for file management, external hardware support, and inter-app communication.”

John Gruber said: “On the hardware front Apple had a 5/5 year… Software wise, it wasn’t good, it wasn’t bad, it was nothing. Which, effectively, is bad, because I think the iPad needs an ‘iPadOS’ overhaul.”

Aleen Simms said, “There’s something about the new hardware that absolutely, profoundly felt like the future to me… Charging the No. 2 Pencil is amazing, especially compared to the previous iteration.”

Federico Viticci said, “I love, love the new iPad Pro hardware… the software, on the other hand, is spectacularly behind. Apple needs to devote plenty of attention to advancing the iPad platform in 2019.” Shahid Kamal Ahmad said, “I hope that when Apple does improve iOS, it does so without introducing friction into the usability of what has been my favourite device of 2018.”

Lest we forget, Apple also introduced a low-priced, low-end iPad last spring. Charles Arthur said, “The bottom-end but powerful iPad (hard to beat the price), and then the top-end iPad Pros (hard to beat the performance). Very neat.” Stephen Hackett said, “The $329 iPad is the best deal in Apple’s entire portfolio. It’s a fast tablet with Pencil support in a terrific, time-proven design. I still can’t believe Apple isn’t charging more.”

Apple Watch

Grade: A (average score: 4.0, median score 4, last year: A-)

With the arrival of the new, larger-screened Apple Watch Series 4, the panel was a happy bunch. Christina Warren said, “Honestly, after a very shaky start, the Apple Watch has become one of the most consistent and exciting products in Apple’s lineup. It’s best-in class and keeps getting better.” Carolina Milanesi said, “It really feels like Apple’s vision has come together.”

Federico Viticci said, “The highlight of this year, for sure.” Rich Mogull said, “This is the Apple Watch we’ve been waiting for.” Scholle McFarland said, “The series 4 is the first Apple Watch I’ve recommended to people who aren’t early technology adopters.”

John Gruber said, “I don’t think Apple gets enough credit for its expertise in miniaturization. They’ve long been the best company in the world at making ever-smaller ever-more-powerful tiny personal computers, and their lead seems to be growing, not shrinking. Apple Watch exemplifies that.”

But there’s still more to be done. Dan Moren said, “My big hope is that some day we’ll get an Apple Watch that always shows the time so I can stop flicking my wrist in public.”

There was praise for Apple’s focus on health applications. Charles Arthur said, “Adding the ECG function to the Watch S4 is very clever: only good stories coming out of that.” Lisa Schmeiser said, “It’s no wonder Tim Cook has been so openly vocal about how Apple will safeguard user data — it’s laying groundwork for future business in health-adjacent markets.” James T. Green said, “The thing saved my life. Now with the EKG features, it only got better.”

However, there was some skepticism about the Apple Watch as a fitness-specific device. Adam Engst said, “The basic hardware configuration of the Apple Watch (slow screen, touch interface instead of buttons) will prevent it from ever competing against dedicated GPS watches like the Garmin Forerunner line.”

Still, there’s more software work to do. Fraser Speirs said, “The new watch faces have a number of confusing and inconsistent elements and could use a bit of fresh thinking.” Stephen Hackett said, “The OS still feels held back in some ways. I’d like to see what developers could do with more powerful tools to build their apps.” Gabe Weatherhead said, “It seems clear that the third party market for watch apps has dried up.”

Marco Arment said, “watchOS’ limitations on third-party apps and our inability to develop third-party watch faces still hold us back from taking full advantage of the excellent hardware, and the first-party watch faces are in a bit of a design slump.” James Thomson said, “It’s time to unlock UIKit apps for third-party developers so we can finally take advantage of it all ourselves.”

Apple TV

Grade: D+ (average score: 2.6, median score 3, last year: C)

2018 was the year after the Apple TV 4K arrived and the year before Apple will roll out its new video subscription service. The panel was not kind to the current limbo in which the Apple TV product find itself.

Fraser Speirs said, “Feels like Apple TV is quite stagnant and the Apple TV as an app platform just hasn’t worked out.” Jim Dalrymple said, “There still seems to be a lot missing from this product.”

John Siracusa said, “The Apple TV puck hardware is capable enough, but the software is lackluster, Apple’s streaming video service is still MIA, and the remote remains execrable.” Christina Warren said, “Nothing has happened and the price is ridiculously high.” Gabe Weatherhead said, “The AppleTV still feels like a hobby—the UI is dated and the remote is still a joke.”

Josh Centers said, “It’s the most expensive device of its kind on the market and can’t even play Bandersnatch.”


Grade: C+ (average score: 3.2, median score 3.5, last year: B-)

As is seemingly usual for this survey, opinions about Apple’s services are all over the place. Everyone seems to have aspects that work fine for them and others that don’t work at all. It’s the proverbial mixed bag. Which isn’t necessarily a great look for Apple, since it spends so much time crowing about how much money it’s making on services.

Matt Deatherage said, “I feel most of these services are about where they were 3-4 years ago.” Fraser Speirs said, “Apple is treading water in a lot of areas.” John Siracusa said, “It’s 2018, and my contacts still don’t sync correctly across devices.” Lex Friedman said, “I still don’t understand how iCloud Photos is supposed to work.” (There’s a book for that, Lex!)

Christina Warren said, “Apple Music continues to grow — and I really like it on mobile.” Jessica Dennis said, “For the most part. Apple Music remains a solidly ok music service with some interesting human-curated playlists.” Carolina Milanesi said, “Apple is showing signs that services is not just the talking point on earnings but something they are very serious about—the recent move to have Apple Music on Echo devices shows that Apple will be playing by different rules going forward.”

Glenn Fleishman said, “Apple has gotten better and worse here… I feel like they’ve improved offerings, features, and interfaces, but iCloud-associated products remain a mess.” Charles Arthur said, “Still not enough iCloud storage at the base level. 5GB? Still.” Casey Liss said, “I am deeply biased by Apple’s services both not meeting my needs, and feeling like an ever-increasing source of nickel-and-diming in the ecosystem.” Adam Engst said, “Most of Apple’s services feel as though they’re merely good enough for people to want to subscribe.”

Stephen Hackett said, “Just when I think ‘Apple is good at services now,’ iCloud goes and eats a change to one of my contacts or lets a note fall out of sync. Things are better than ever, but iCloud sync should be bulletproof.” Gabe Weatherhead said, “Apple has transformed their services from the butt of many jokes to one of their top businesses. iCloud photos and Apple Music are used reliably by millions of customers… [but] Siri does not feel like it’s in the same market as [its competition].”

John Gruber said, “iCloud Photos is now one of the best sync services I’ve ever used… They should have a better free tier for iCloud and a better value proposition for paid tiers. All that said… Apple is a beacon of hope in the industry for its stance on privacy and advertising.”

Dr. Drang said, “Shockingly, the 2 TB iCloud Drive plan is a better value than Dropbox. I’m still nervous about switching over to it, but I think 2019 is the year.”

Philip Michaels said, “It’s funny. Apple’s service revenues are booming, and I don’t know that Apple’s done anything to make services appreciably better.” Federico Viticci said, “I like Apple Music and Apple News, but they’re evolving too slowly. Apple Music has been essentially unchanged for two years while Spotify keeps adding new features… If Apple is serious about becoming a services company, they need to push for more aggressive release schedules and frequent upgrades.”


Grade: C- (average score: 2.9, median score 2, last year: C-)

The panel showed a lot of skepticism about Apple’s commitment to smart home tech, citing stiff competition from Amazon and Google.

Carolina Milanesi said, “This to me remains the most puzzling part of the Apple ecosystem. Nothing has been happening in this space for a while and I am not sure as to why. This year it really felt like home automation was not a priority for Apple other than making the requirements for compatibility a little more flexible.”

Gabe Weatherhead said, “I have a HomeKit enabled house and it’s not reliable.” Dan Moren said, “Needs better integration on the Mac front outside of the iOS-transplant Home app, more support for different kinds of hardware (like types of sensors), and better and more automation options.”

Federico Viticci said, “Despite opening HomeKit certification to a software-based process, it seems like third-party manufacturers are still slow to adopt HomeKit… Apple needs to convince me to stay on their platform in 2019 because Google and Amazon are becoming more and more compelling by the day.”

Michael E. Cohen said, “The fact that HomeKit knows when sunset comes each day, and can turn the lamp on at that exact time every day, may be a little thing, but it’s a magical little thing.” Jeff Carlson said, “After outfitting my house with a dozen lights and a handful of switches, I haven’t been compelled or excited to do more.”

David Sparks said, “Apple was slow out of the gate but it finally feels like they’re making progress.”

Hardware reliability

Grade: B+ (average score: 3.8, median score 4, last year: A-)

There were a lot of issues, but the reliability of MacBook keyboards really came to the fore with our panel.

“iPhone 7s returned in large quantities in 2018 thanks to manufacturing problems that rendered them unable to work on cellular data networks… MacBook keyboards continue to fail despite three redesigns… And Apple Stores were choked at the end of the year with people rushing to get batteries replaced. Glad to see Apple own up to and eat the costs of some of these issues, but it still creates a lot of friction for customers who are displeased at paying a premium but not feeling like they’re getting premium quality,” said Peter Cohen.

Jim Dalrymple said, “I think the reliability overall is top notch. I haven’t had a single hardware failure in years.” David Sparks said, “I realized recently that I no longer take Mac hardware reliability for granted.”

Marco Arment said, “Almost every category is very reliable, but the continued problems with the MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboards, despite the reductions from the 2018 keyboard’s membrane, tarnish their reputation in a big way.” John Siracusa said, “That butterfly keyboard really has to go!” Casey Liss said, “I’m not calling for anyone’s head to roll, but I do think there’s a legitimate problem here that needs to be addressed.”

Christina Warren said, “I don’t love how the keyboard issues have been handled, if I’m honest. The redesigned keyboards appear to do better — but only time will tell.” Rene Ritchie said, “You don’t hear much about the 3rd generation butterfly keyboard failing, so you take your wins where you can.”

Software quality

Grade: B- (average score: 3.4, median score 3, last year: C-)

There are always issues, but most of our panel had to admit that Apple’s upgrade this cycle this year (to Mojave and iOS 12) went smoothly.

“Bugs exist, now and forever, but I get the feeling that the system’s complexity is outpacing the testing plans. It makes me worry about how a processor transition might proceed,” said Matt Deatherage.

“There are some quirks with Apple software that sometimes baffles the mind. Overall, I think the company has great software and they work really hard to make all of the OSes work together, which is extremely important,” said Jim Dalrymple.

“I feel like 2018 was a good year for Apple software…. I wonder if the yearly cadence is still working for releases…. I do wonder if splitting some of the bigger features over the year — and sharing that upfront — might work better,” said Christina Warren.

“Mojave is fine, and hasn’t had showstoppers, but blecho is my word for Apple’s ongoing commitment to not caring about most of its desktop software. Photos still is feature incomplete and buggy… iTunes remains a hideous blancmange lurching across its many functions… I constantly battle with Mail, Pages, Photos, iTunes, and other Apple software,” said Glenn Fleishman.

“iOS 12 was a great improvement for stability and speed. Mojave has been a quiet update - haven’t noticed anything from it. Good software is when you don’t notice it,” said Charles Arthur.

“I’d like Apple to focus on the apps it ships with the system, but then I remember at how bad Home, News, Voice Memos and even the new Mac App Store are at being decent Mac apps and I fear for the future,” said Stephen Hackett.

“iOS’s growth in functionality has come too many hidden options, and too much reliance on precise timing of touching, holding, and dragging. And old essential operations like text selection are still far too fiddly,” said Dr. Drang.

“It is an ongoing source of exasperation that as the overall computing environment becomes ever more cloud-based, with the idea that data syncing across devices for a consistent user experience being the whole selling point, that Apple’s core apps are just not up for the job,” said Lisa Schmeiser.

“iOS 12 is the best version of iOS I have tested in years. The work Apple put into optimizing performance on older hardware truly shows… particularly if you consider how some users may have held off upgrading to new devices because their old ones work better on iOS 12,” said Federico Viticci.

Developer Relations

Grade: B- (average score: 3.4, median score 4, last year: B)

When we started this survey a few years ago, Apple’s relationship with app developers was much more fraught than it is today. Still, there was a slight backslide in scores from last year.

Jim Dalrymple said, “I think developer relations is something Apple has improved on immensely over the past few years.” Lex Friedman said, “I think it’s a BFD that Panic returned to the App Store.”

“It seems that Apple has not been able to replicate the iOS App Store success for other platforms, which is limiting the opportunity for developers to fully take advantage of the Apple’s ecosystem,” said Carolina Milanesi.

“With new APIs for Apple Watch and the APIs for Siri Shortcuts on iOS, it does feel like Apple has a road map to give third party apps deeper integrations and more power,” said Gabe Weatherhead.

“I think Apple needs to do a much better job policing scams and frauds in the App Store,” said John Gruber.

“I have never seen the App Store review process move as quickly as I saw in 2018. Fast turnarounds, and good feedback on rejections, too,” said Brett Terpstra.

Societal/Environmental Impact

Grade: B (average score: 3.7, median score 4, last year: B+)

“I appreciate that Tim Cook says important things loudly and publicly. I don’t appreciate that he is softer in his criticisms of the administration,” said Lex Friedman.

“Apple’s failure to take a more aggressive stance on the Trump administration’s more noteworthy follies will be a stain on the company’s reputation long after the current administration is a shameful memory. If you can’t use your weight as the world’s most valuable company to steer the debate on topics like immigration, trade wars and the like, then what good is that power and influence?” said Philip Michaels.

“Apple believes in freedom and privacy and security when a company rep is in front of a microphone complaining about the behavior of the tech companies they’re competing with. Ask them about China annnd gosh, that steel rod in their spine turns to tapioca,” said Andy Ihnatko.

“Apple’s focus on user privacy, whether motivated by money or honest intent (a mix of both, I’m sure), remains a beacon in a world ravaged by Facebook and Google’s missteps,” said Glenn Fleishman.

“I particularly like the voice Tim Cook has on social media on diversity, civil rights and other social issues although I would like to see Apple do more for diversity within its c-level management in particular,” said Carolina Milanesi.

“I think people forget that Apple regularly got low grades from environmental groups in the early ’00s. The company’s commitment to fixing that has been one of its greatest success stories. Employee diversity, not so much,” said Dr. Drang.

Aleen Simms said, “They seem to be making slow progress on diversity within their workforce. I would still like to see this change to be faster.” Jean MacDonald said, “I was really excited by Apple’s announcement of Entrepreneur Camp for women app developers, which offers not just support in coding, but also app design and marketing. From our experience at App Camp For Girls, I know this is a powerful approach in encouraging the participation of underrepresented people in the business of app development.”

“I’d like to see Apple pushing forward with more lobbying in D.C. as a countermeasure to growing discrimination in the U.S… I’d also like to see more visible examples of Apple s zero tolerance for discrimination,” said Gabe Weatherhead.

“Apple has no public roadmap for their efforts in education and also appear to be letting iTunes U wither on the vine. Google is now trouncing them in this area with new features coming virtually monthly. It’s time to worry,” said Fraser Speirs.

“Accessibility-wise, Apple’s commitment to the disabled community remains as strong as ever. 2018 was an interesting year, however, in terms of strategy. Instead of discrete accessibility features (save for AirPods with Live Listen) the company focused on how mainstream functionality can be accessible in certain contexts. It’s smart marketing insofar as Apple made a concerted effort to show their products can be used by literally everyone, regardless of ability,” said Steven Aquino.


I didn’t vote in the panel. My panelists included Shahid Kamal Ahmad, Steven Aquino, Marco Arment, Charles Arthur, Leah Becerra, Shawn Blanc, Jeff Carlson, Josh Centers, Michael E. Cohen, Peter Cohen, Alex Cox, Jim Dalrymple, Matt Deatherage, Jessica Dennis, Dr. Drang, Adam Engst, Glenn Fleishman, Lex Friedman, Rob Griffiths, John Gruber, Stephen Hackett, Myke Hurley, Andy Ihnatko, Joe Kissell, Andrew Laurence, Rick LePage, Casey Liss, Roman Loyola, Jean MacDonald, Joe Macirowski, Merlin Mann, Kirk McElhearn, Scholle McFarland, Philip Michaels, Carolina Milanesi, Rich Mogull, John Moltz, Dan Moren, Rene Ritchie, Lisa Schmeiser, Brent Simmons, Aleen Simms, John Siracusa, David Smith, David Sparks, Fraser Speirs, Brett Terpstra, Ben Thompson, James Thomson, James T. Green, Michael Tsai, Khoi Vinh, Federico Viticci, Christina Warren, and Gabe Weatherhead.

Previous surveys were reported for 2015, 2016, and 2017.

Cheddar: Apple plans gaming subscription service

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-28 16:26

Apple’s push towards services gets more and more interesting. Alex Heath of Cheddar 1 reports that Apple is approaching game developers about a game subscription service:

The service would function like Netflix for games, allowing users who pay a subscription fee to access a bundled list of titles. Apple began privately discussing a subscription service with game developers in the second half of 2018, said the people, all of whom requested anonymity to discuss unannounced plans.

Didn’t see this one coming, but it might be a way for Apple to steer games on its platform away from the free-to-play-but-buy-some-coins model that currently prevails. And as Federico Viticci points out, with Screen Time Apple has already built in a way to measure how much time users spend on individual apps—a system it could theoretically use to determine game developer compensation.

  1. “It’s a big enough market to move the needle for Apple,” analyst Gene Munster told Cheddar. Cheesy. ↩

A tiny screw shows why iPhones won't be 'Assembled in USA'

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-28 16:07, modified on 2019-01-29 02:18

Good article by Jack Nicas in the New York Times about just why Apple assembles its products in China, built around the story of the Texas-assembled Mac Pro:

Chinese suppliers shipped their components to Texas. But in some cases, the Texas team needed new parts as designs changed, and engineers who were tasked with designing the computer found themselves calling machine shops in central Texas.

The supplier Apple chose, Caldwell Manufacturing, could only produce a small number of custom screws 1 (compared to a Chinese firm), to the point where Apple ended up ordering screws from China. But what’s also interesting is the chicken-and-egg aspect of the story:

When Mr. Melo bought Caldwell in 2002, it was capable of the high-volume production Apple needed. But demand for that had dried up as manufacturing moved to China. He said he had replaced the old stamping presses that could mass-produce screws with machines designed for more precise, specialized jobs.

Caldwell couldn’t make lots of screws for Apple, even though it once had the capacity, because that part of its business was beaten by cheaper competition in China years before. (The article also quite rightly points out that U.S. workers are paid far more than Chinese workers and also don’t live under an authoritarian government that can compel them to work—though as John Gruber rightly points out it’s not as if American industry can’t work 24 hours…)

I have no idea if this story originated with Apple or if it’s all independent reporting by the Times 2, but it serves Apple’s message—that they can’t simply move manufacturing back to the United States like the President of the United States keeps saying. But the report does suggest that Apple is investigating ways of diversifying its assembly chain by adding resources in Vietnam or India, just in case tensions between the U.S. and China grow worse.

  1. As several people have pointed out today, it’s entirely possible these were nonstandard security screws designed to make the device harder to open and repair… sigh. ↩

  2. The more I think about it, the more it feels like this is a story planted by Apple. ↩

Up, down, sideways: Apple’s personnel changes point to its priorities (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-25 14:30

Back in December, I wrote about what we could glean from Apple’s expansion into new physical locations in the U.S. While studying the company’s personnel moves may cross a bit into reading tea leaves, you can often divine at least some big picture indications from where the company is putting its resources. Make no mistake, Apple’s biggest and most significant resources are its personnel.

Granted, those personnel moves are happening on a consistent basis, though they don’t always rise to the level of reported news. They may not always be as splashy as expanding campuses, but there are plenty of hirings, firings, and reorganizations that can point to how Apple is adjusting its operational priorities. Over the last few weeks alone, for example, there have been several stories about Apple personnel changes; look closely enough and you can start to get a clearer indication of where the company’s interests lie at present.

(Podcast) Download #88: Creepy Robot Hotel

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-24 20:43, modified at 20:46

This week on Download, Stephen Hackett and Jason discuss the top stories of the week: robots roll out, smartphones get weird, Apple Pay expands, Netflix gets Oscar nominations and joins the MPAA, NBC Universal gets into streaming, and Tesla puts the squeeze on its customers. Guests are Accidental Tech Podcaster Marco Arment and the Hollywood Reporter’s Natalie Jarvey.

The Mac's 35th birthday

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-24 19:46, modified at 19:52

It’s the 35th anniversary of the Mac, which also means it is (and I can’t really believe this) the 15th anniversary of my interview with Steve Jobs on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Mac:

Well, we’ve always been very clear on that. We don’t think that televisions and personal computers are going to merge. We think basically you watch television to turn your brain off, and you work on your computer when you want to turn your brain on.

We spent months negotiating the interview and the ground rules were kind of ridiculous: It’s a 20th Anniversary interview with no questions about the past. Jobs so clearly didn’t want to be there and he was off the line within five minutes. That article is a transcript of every word he said—with the exception of my final question, which asked him about his future as Apple CEO at a time when he had just received a secret cancer diagnosis.

It’s also the fifth anniversary of this interview I had with Phil Schiller and other Apple execs in which they reassured me of Apple’s commitment to the Mac:

“There is a super-important role [for the Mac] that will always be,” Schiller said. “We don’t see an end to that role. There’s a role for the Mac as far as our eye can see. A role in conjunction with smartphones and tablets, that allows you to make the choice of what you want to use. Our view is, the Mac keeps going forever, because the differences it brings are really valuable.”

Apple’s strategy with the Mac seems to have shifted quite a bit in the last five years, but I think it has led to a place where the company is focusing more attention on the Mac than it was back then, not less.

Microsoft Office comes to the Mac App Store

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-24 19:40, modified at 19:54

Back in June Apple made a big deal about how it was changing things about the Mac App Store to bring in more apps that previously weren’t able to enter the store or who (like BBEdit and Panic’s apps) had been in the store but then left.

Here’s another example, as Apple has announced the arrival of Microsoft Office in the Mac App Store:

Today, Office 365 is available for the first time on the Mac App Store, making it easier than ever for Mac users to download Word, Outlook, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and the whole suite of Microsoft’s popular apps. Users can also purchase a subscription for Office 365 from within the apps, so they can get up and running instantly.

The apps are all free, as they are elsewhere. After a one-month trial period you need to subscribe to Office 365 to keep using Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. If you get Office from the App Store, apparently you can either log in to your existing Office 365 account or use Apple’s in-app purchase system to subscribe to Office 365 from within the apps.

How will Apple's 2019 iPhone counter the Google Pixel camera? (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-24 19:07

Perhaps the most important feature of the modern era of the smartphone is the camera. The operating systems are mature, the processors and data connections are fast, the apps are plentiful, and the high-resolution screens are large and brilliant. Having a camera with us wherever we go has changed how we view the world and share our lives with others, and the thin shell of a smartphone puts some pretty severe limitations on photography.

Compared to a decade ago, of course, today’s smartphone cameras offer eye-poppingly good image quality. But if you’re shopping for a new smartphone, the camera matters—and the competition is fierce. For years, Apple has promoted the iPhone as offering a high-quality camera, even if it didn’t always match up to competitors with more raw megapixels. But if Apple did possess the smartphone camera throne, it feels like it’s lost it in the last year or two.

Google’s Pixel 3 is generally considered to be the best overall smartphone camera, and its Night Sight feature offers the ability to shoot low-light images that blow away those on the iPhone. It offers deep-focus effects with a single camera that seem to beat the dual-camera setup on the iPhone XS and XS Max. And it’s got a wide-angle selfie camera to make capturing large groups easier.

What can Apple do to counter Google in 2019? There are a few different answers—including one that could require Apple to re-think its classic approach to iPhone upgrades.

My writing finances, 2018 (Dan Moren)

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-24 17:11

I’m always interested when writers like John Scalzi, Jim C. Hines, and Kameron Hurley talk about the economics of the writing business. I’m certainly not at the same place in my career as any of them, but maybe somebody out there is interested in what the finances of someone just starting out in fiction writing—but who’s also spent the last four years as a professional freelance writer and podcaster—look like. And, well, the only numbers I have at my disposal are my own.

Code embedded in images targeting Macs via ads

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-24 16:57, modified on 2019-01-25 13:37

Ars Technica security guru Dan Goodin on a diabolical malware that hid JavaScript code in images served in ads:

The ads were served by a group security firm Confiant has dubbed VeryMal, a name that comes from veryield-malyst.com, one of the ad-serving domains the group uses. A run that was active from January 11 to January 13 on about 25 of the top 100 publisher sites triggered the image as many as 5 million times a day. In an attempt to bypass increasingly effective measures available to detect malicious ads, the images used steganography—the ancient practice of hiding code, messages, or other data inside images or text—to deliver its malicious payload to Mac-using visitors.

Just in case you needed yet another reminder that the current state of Internet advertising is likely causing way more harm than good.

This isn’t quite in the same category, but the recent preponderance of malicious ads that hijack a site (usually while viewing on mobile) and kick you to a “free gift card” scam has really ticked me off. Sites have little control over the ads, and the ad networks seems to be playing whack-a-mole trying to stop them, while the users are the ones who get screwed. (And said whack-a-mole leads to more examples like the story above, where the techniques used by bad actors get increasingly sophisticated.)

On top of that, add in recent stories on how most ad metrics are basically garbage and how sites have chased that bottom line, laying off employees along the way, all combines to make Internet advertising look like kind of a trashfire. 1

Oh, and for those that pivoted to video, the story’s not much better.

  1. And okay, yeah, this is probably a little bit personal.  ↩

(Podcast) Rebound 222: This Is What You Get When You Have My Full Attention

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-24 15:30

This week, on the irreverent tech show that’s recording after dark, we’ve got a full complement of hosts. First Lex wants help with his home theater setup, then we move on to talk about Apple’s reportedly slowed hiring, the iPhone SE on clearance (how many John has bought will SHOCK you), and we try a revolutionary approach to decluttering our podcast. Also, a throwdown is proposed that may see all three hosts face off in a death-defying race…to the death!

(Podcast) Clockwise #278: Marie Kondo'ing Your Notifications

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-24 15:15

This week, on the 30-minute show that hopefully sparks joy in you, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Megan Morrone and Ant Pruitt to discuss how we consume text content online, the smartphone and desktop notifications that we can’t live without, whether foldable phones are a gimmick or the next big thing, and the tech that could help enhance our sporting events. Plus, an interplanetary bonus question!

This is the year phones get weird

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-23 22:24, modified at 22:29

We discussed the idea of foldable phones at length on Upgrade this week, and I wrote about it last week for Tom’s Guide. It’s feeling increasingly timely given the stories today about Xiaomi’s folding phone.

Looking at the bigger picture is Lauren Goode at Wired:

Smartphones, it seems, have gotten weird. And they’re only going to get weirder in 2019. Our glass slabs will be punctuated by pop-out cameras, foldable displays, hole-punched notches, and invisible fingerprint sensors. These features will be marketed as innovations. Some will be innovative. Some will just be weird, in the way that tech inevitably feels forced when design decisions are borne out of a need to make mature products appear exciting and new.

As Goode quite rightly points out, a lot of these experiments with new smartphone features will be flops. There is definitely a familiar vibe about a lot of these “innovations” that reminds me of the TV market after the explosion of HDTV sales cooled. (Remember 3D TV?)

But a few of these innovations may turn out to be surprisingly useful. I’d be shocked if Apple didn’t have a lab somewhere trying to figure out what the proper user interaction would be for a foldable iPhone. In the meantime, various phonemakers will be testing this stuff in public, and users will be left to discover for themselves if these features are all they’re cracked up to be.

(Podcast) Upgrade #229: A More Intentional Folding

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-22 19:56, modified at 19:57

This year Samsung plans to release a smartphone with a foldable OLED display. Is this technology that Apple would use in future iPhones, and if so, how? We also discuss Apple’s new videos that highlight the iPad Pro, and Jason tries to explain NBC Universal’s interesting new streaming service announcement.

Apple Pay coming to Target, other locations

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-22 14:32

Apple PR:

Target, Taco Bell, Hy-Vee supermarkets in the Midwest, Speedway convenience stores and Jack in the Box are the latest merchants to support Apple Pay, the most popular mobile contactless payment system in the world that lets customers easily and securely pay in stores using their iPhone and Apple Watch. With the addition of these national retailers, 74 of the top 100 merchants in the US and 65 percent of all retail locations across the country will support Apple Pay.

Target has been one of the big Apple Pay holdouts, since it was first part of the CurrentC/MCX consortium, and then seemed to want to push customers towards using its own proprietary system, which never really took off.

It’s also one of increasingly few big stores in my area that doesn’t take Apple Pay, so it’s nice to see it get onboard with contactless payments. The future’s almost here!

Why Apple Will Be Late to Foldable Phones (and Still Win) (Tom's Guide)

Permalink - Posted on 2019-01-20 15:41, modified at 15:43

It looks like the display industry’s equivalent of the personal jet pack or flying car might actually be arriving from the future into the present. The flexible OLED display, long demoed but never sold, is coming to TVs (from LG) and smartphones (from Samsung, among others). In a smartphone market that has consistently gone ape for larger and larger displays, phones that double in size once they’ve left your pocket could be a game-changer.

(Or not. Until these phones exist, we won’t know if consumers are clamoring for a phone that can be expanded to be a miniature tablet—but it’s not a bad bet.)

Samsung has been the center of attention in the foldable smartphone discussion, but there’s another major player, one rarely discussed when it comes to this topic: Apple. Would Apple consider releasing an iPhone with a foldable display? And if so, under what conditions?