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Feed Sponsor: PhotoLemur

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-19 20:00, modified on 2018-09-18 20:10

PhotoLemur is an award-winning photo enhancer that makes all your images great automatically with the help of Artificial Intelligence.

Editing has never been this easy! Whether you want to skip that humdrum photo editing routine or you simply want to save time, Photolemur is the smart solution for your editing needs.

Photolemur’s Face Enhancement detects faces in your photos, then removes any imperfections and blemishes, and it does all that automatically with pleasing, natural-looking results. You’ll never get better and more effortless skin retouching, whether it’s for portraits, groups shots, or selfies.

Photolemur is the Winner of Red Dot Award 2018 Interface Design with its unique user experience and user interface.


Quick Tip: Typing a Tab character in iOS

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-19 13:05, modified at 13:58

While I was playing around with Shortcuts the other night, I ran into a dilemma. The “Combine Text” action offers the ability to output text separated by a custom delimiter, and I wanted to use a tab character. 1

However, as you eagle-eyed readers surely know, the iOS keyboard lacks a Tab key. Searching around for an alternative, I came across a few suggestions, including copying and pasting a tab character from another app, but one that I uncovered on a message board was particularly simple: use Dictation.

That’s right, if you tap that microphone icon on the keyboard and say “Tab key,” iOS will insert a tab for you. That’ll work pretty much anywhere you can use Dictation, including in Shortcuts. So I was able to output tab-delimited data into a file for future reference.

Dumb? A little. Useful? For sure.

Update: A suggestion from reader FJ: you can also create a text shortcut on the Mac that contains a tab, though you have to put in another character as well; this shortcut will then sync to your iOS devices. A little more cumbersome, but nice if you’re in a place where you can’t use Dictation.


  1. The workflow I was creating has the goal of ultimately outputting data that could be easily pasted into a Numbers spreadsheet. Though, as it turns out, that’s a bit stickier on iOS.  ↩


Ferrite 2: iOS audio editor adds templates, noise removal

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-19 00:34, modified at 00:49

Ferrite in action.

Most of the podcasts I make, I edit on my Mac using Logic Pro X. But when I’m traveling (or just don’t want to sit at a desk) I edit on Ferrite Recording Studio, a spectacularly good multitrack audio editor for iOS.

Developer Wooji Juice has just released version 2 of Ferrite. It’s still free with an in-app purchase to unlock a bunch of pro-level features, and users of the previous version will need to pay $15 to unlock the new pro features introduced with version 2. With all that said, this is a professional audio editor that costs about $20 all-in. It’s a fantastic value, and the app I am most hoping will make the transition from iOS to the Mac in 2019.

ferrite2-template
Using a Ferrite template saves time.

A few of the new features really hit the spot for me. You can now create project templates within the app, allowing you to get a project set up just the way you like it, with theme music, show art, audio tracks for guests, the works—even placeholders for things like filenames and episode numbers. Once it’s all set, you can just tap on the icon next to the template and Ferrite lets you fill in the blanks and open a fresh, new project based on the template.

I’m also really excited about the new audio preproduction features, which let you pre-process audio tracks in order to level their volume and remove background noise. Even when I edit podcasts on iOS, I’m generally using files that have been pre-processed on my Mac, including noise removal and volume leveling. To test Ferrite’s preproduction feature, I rebuilt a podcast project on iOS using source files, and compared the result to the project I built on macOS using desktop noise-reduction and compressor utilities.

Ferrite 2 can adjust levels and remove noise on a per-file basis.

The results were really good. I noticed a few places where the Mac version was still superior, but both were vastly superior to an export with the unprocessed audio files—background noises were audible throughout and volumes were highly variable. This is going to be a major step forward when I am producing podcasts entirely on iOS, with no ability to use a Mac to prep my files. (It does take a while to process the files on my first-generation iPad Pro, and currently you have to process each file individually. Hopefully Wooji Juice will make batch processing these files possible in the future.)

And it’s a little thing, but you can now specify the export filename for your project. Previously it would use the title of your project as the source for the filename, so when I export my final MP3 from Ferrite I’d get a file out called something like The Incomparable - Bad Batman Movies.mp3 instead of the much-preferable theincomparable368.mp3.

Ferrite 2 also features a new built-in eight-band equalizer and spectrum visualizer, to tweak the quality of each of your tracks. There’s enhanced support for presets, with the ability to store presets inside templates, sync them via iCloud, rename them, and back them up via iTunes. And in a win for accessibility, Ferrite’s support for VoiceOver has gotten a major upgrade to make it easier to navigate between tracks.

If you edit audio on iOS, I can’t recommend Ferrite Recording Studio highly enough.


Give new life to old extensions in Safari 12

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-18 19:00, modified at 19:28

Among yesterday’s barrage of updates was a seemingly minor one: Safari 12. While the most notable news of Apple’s latest browser might have been the long-awaited ability to display favicons in tabs, there were a handful of other changes, including a few to extensions that may be unpopular.

Firstly, Safari no longer supports extensions cryptographically signed by developers themselves. The browser also implements a new Safari App Extensions API, which doesn’t have all the features of the previous, now deprecated extension API, causing some developers to cease work on extensions1

The good news is that there is still a way to run these extensions for the time being. (My thanks to my friend John Siracusa for letting me in on the secret.) But this approach does come with a few caveats:

  • Developer-signed certificates can potentially be unsafe, which is one reason why Apple is not allowing them anymore. If you’re going to use this feature, I’d recommend limiting it to older extensions that you already trust, not necessarily as a way to bypass security restrictions for new extensions.

  • Sooner or later, this trick will probably stop working, and/or older extensions will no longer function correctly with new versions of Safari. It’s unclear when this might happen—you may get a couple years out of them yet, and perhaps by the time they do, sanctioned alternatives will become available.

  • One downside to this approach, based on my testing with the Mojave public beta, is that every system update re-enforced the new rules, meaning that you might potentially have to perform this procedure again in the future.

Those warnings out of the way, here’s how to actually run those old extensions on your Mac.

Terminal

Extensions are stored in ~/Library/Safari/Extensions. Fortunately, Safari 12 doesn’t remove the extension files for deprecated or inactive extensions. Drag any extensions you want to save from here onto your desktop; I recommend putting them into a folder.

The next part of this requires a little command-line trickery, so fire up Terminal, navigate to that directory you just created on the desktop (or just type cd followed by a space in the Terminal window and drag the folder you just made on your desktop into the Terminal window).

Type xar -xf followed by a space and the name of the extension file, and hit enter. (Tip: If you type the first few characters and hit the Tab key, it’ll autocomplete the rest.) Repeat for each extension file. You’ll now have a folder of source files for each extension.

Safari

Now open Safari. If you don’t already have the Develop menu in the menu bar, go to Safari > Preferences, click on the Advanced tab, and check the “Show Develop menu in menu bar” option.

There should now be a Develop menu between the Bookmarks and Window menus; from it, select Show Extension Builder.

The first time you open the Extension Builder, you’ll be asked whether you really want to use it instead of Xcode: you do. Click Continue.

At the bottom of the Extension Builder window click the Plus (+) button and choose Add Extension. You’ll get a standard Open dialog box; navigate to that folder on your desktop where you put your extension files and choose the folder with the extension name; it’ll have the extension .safari extension. (You can select multiple extensions by Command-clicking the folders, otherwise you’ll have to perform the Add Extension command multiple times for each different extension.) Click Select.

You’ll now see your old extensions in the left hand column, with information about them in the pane on the right side. Click the Run button in the top right-hand corner; you’ll be prompted for your password. Repeat this step for each extension you want to run.

And voilà: you’re done. Your extensions should now be running and should appear in the Extensions pane of Safari’s preferences. As I said above, it’s not a permanent solution, but if you’re looking to eke a little more life out of much-loved extensions, this will hopefully tide you over for now.


  1. Safari Keyword Search has been an indispensable piece of software for me over the past many years, and I am devastated to see that the writing is on the wall for it, especially with no real alternatives.  ↩


Apple resources for new OS releases

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-17 23:47, modified on 2018-09-18 01:09

You may not know this, but Federico Viticci isn’t the only person writing lots and lots of stuff about what’s in iOS 12 and how you can use it. Apple employs an entire staff of people to build documentation and how-to guides, and they’ve been hard at work updating stuff for iOS 12 and other new releases. Here are some links, thanks to my old pal Chris Breen, who now works at—let’s see here—oh! Apple.


Overcast 5 adds Siri Shortcuts, watch playback, and search

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-17 19:56, modified at 21:32

overcast5-now-playing
Overcast 5’s redesigned Now Playing screen allows for better discovery of playback controls, show notes, sleep timer, and even direct support for podcasts.

My podcast player of choice, Marco Arment’s Overcast, was updated Monday to version 5.0 in conjunction with the releases of iOS 12 and watchOS 5. It’s a huge update that unlocks a bunch of new features that I have been anxiously awaiting, in one case for years.

Most noticeable is the redesigned Now Playing screen, which now features show art at a slightly reduced size so that two areas can appear on either side of the art, indicating that there’s more interface to be discovered by swiping left or right. To the right is information about the episode, including show notes and chapter markers. To the left are playback controls, including Smart Speed and Voice Boost. There’s nothing dramatically new here in terms of features—it’s just a redesign that attempts to make show notes and playback controls more discoverable.

At the bottom of the Now Playing display are icons that give you direct access to a sleep timer, sound output controls, and (for podcasts with some sort of support system) a direct link to support the podcast you’re listening to. (Tapping on the link brings up a web link that’s set by the podcast.)

For me, the best new feature of Overcast is the return of Apple Watch playback. The app previously made an attempt at supporting Apple Watch, but watchOS just wasn’t advanced enough to reliably transfer and keep playing audio. Now it is. I’ve done several runs this summer with the beta version of Overcast running on my Apple Watch, playing to a pair of AirPods (with no iPhone in sight), and it has worked flawlessly.

Overcast 5 on watchOS 5. You can toggle between iPhone remote and on-watch modes (left), view playlists on your watch (center), and get a quick status view from the Now Playing screen (right).

Overcast looks at your podcasts and playlists and makes some decisions about what episodes it thinks you’ll want to listen to, and transfers specially encoded versions (with Smart Speed and Voice Boost baked in) to your Apple Watch at appropriate moments—generally overnight, when your Apple Watch is plugged in. You can also force the app to send a podcast episode to the watch, using the same interface as you’d use to add a podcast to a playlist.

The Overcast watch app now lets you remote control your iPhone playback (including volume!), or—by tapping on an icon—control playback directly from the device. I’m able to leave my house with only my Apple Watch and a pair of AirPods and run with podcasts filling my ears the entire time.

Overcast also now supports Siri Shortcuts. You can’t arbitrarily name a podcast via Siri and expect it to play in Overcast, but you can choose to enable Shortcut phrases for specific playlists or podcasts, as well as to resume playback and navigate through podcasts. (There are lots and lots of shortcuts available, including toggling Smart Speed and Voice Boost on and off, moving in chapters, and even adjusting playback speed.)

Search a long-running podcast’s archive for keywords.

I set up shortcuts for the two playlists I use the most, as well as for resuming playback, and I can basically control Overcast handsfree now when I’m driving. It’s fantastic.

One other major feature that’s been added to this version: search. You can now search the metadata (titles and show notes) for downloaded podcast episodes, or drill down into a specific show and search its entire feed for keywords. As someone who listens to numerous podcasts with enormous back catalogs, this is a great addition.


(Podcast) Upgrade #211: You Will Pay

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-17 19:04, modified at 19:07

What a time! iOS 12 has arrived and we’re waiting for delivery of new Apple products. This week Jason and Myke discuss their favorite features of the new update, which new devices they’ve bought, why phone carriers ruin everything, and the fallout from Apple’s decision to focus on larger and more expensive phones this time around.


iOS 12 adds powerful search to Photos

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-17 18:43, modified at 20:20

In iOS 12, searching in the Photos takes a big step forward—while leaving macOS Mojave trailing, alas. Search results in Photos on iOS are incredibly rich. When you search for something, you won’t just find the photos that match, but you’ll also see all the Moments and Albums that contain matching photos.

The real power, though—and the place where iOS 12 really has it over macOS—is the ability to combine search terms.

If you want to search for a dog, you can type in dog and tap on the Dog category (this is important—you must tokenize each query, as Photos is not smart enough to figure out what you mean otherwise), and you’ll see all the photos that Apple’s machine-learning technology has identified as containing dogs. On that search-results screen you’ll also see a bunch of suggestions for related items that are often found with dogs—people, locations, even years or seasons.

If you tap on one of these items, they’ll be added to your search query, so now you’ll see all instances of, for example, a particular person and a dog.

When I searched my photo library for dog, I found 729 items. Adding the category snow dropped the total number of items to just three—and all them were my dog in the snow.

This is incredibly powerful. If you want to find photos with specific combinations of people, places, or actions, you can do it in seconds. I searched for my son by name and then added the second search term swimming and instantly found 57 photos. Ten years of pool parties, found in just moments.

It’s a pretty big upgrade, especially if you have a large library. And it makes Apple’s automatically generated machine-learning categories much more useful by letting you connect them to people, places, or other categories.

Now if only it also worked on the Mac….


Why Price Won't Stop People from Buying the iPhone Xs Max (Tom's Guide)

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-17 15:19, modified at 15:20

The iPhone XS Max is the most expensive iPhone ever made. Its 6.5-inch display is the biggest on an iPhone ever. And its name is certainly the most ridiculous. This is, to be sure, a phone of extremes. And yet many of my friends say they’ll be getting an iPhone XS Max the first day it’s available. I guess another superlative we need to apply to the iPhone XS Max may be in its appeal to a certain type of customer.

Let’s break down what makes the iPhone XS Max such an interesting product.


iOS 12: The MacStories Review

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-17 15:13, modified at 18:59

Federico Viticci’s exhaustive review of iOS 12 is live. Every year, it is the definitive review of iOS. This year we get Siri Shortcuts, which is a huge step forward for iOS productivity.

You should read it. It’s delightful. Or listen to the audio version, narrated by Myke Hurley.


(Sponsor) Turn Touch

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-16 03:18

My thanks to Turn Touch for sponsoring Six Colors this week. The Turn Touch combines natural mahogany and rosewood and a simple, elegant design for sophisticated control of a wide range of smart home devices. Also available is the Turn Touch Pedestal, which is sold separately and makes a perfect home base for the Turn Touch.

Smart devices don’t have to be made of cheap, ugly plastic. Check out Turn Touch today and use the coupon code PEDESTAL25 at checkout for 25% off the Turn Touch Pedestal.


The iPhone Xs: An innovation dilemma (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-14 18:58

In a financial conference call during the last year, Apple CEO Tim Cook described the iPhone X as setting up the next ten years of smartphones. It’s easy to see now what Cook meant by that: this week, the company updated all of its new iPhones to follow the design example set by the iPhone X.

But even as it unveiled the iPhone Xs Max and the iPhone XR, the company ran into a struggle when it came to the iPhone X’s successor, the iPhone Xs. How do you take what was formerly your most advanced iPhone and distinguish it from the rest of your now equally advanced line-up?

That’s one reason why during Apple’s event, about halfway through Apple’s description of the iPhone Xs, I started to get a bit antsy and, much as I hate to admit it, a little bored. The more the company leaned on the impressive specs in the iPhone Xs’s A12 Bionic chip, the more I started to suspect that it was because the bulk of the improvements in this new phone were in the kind of speed and capacity increases that aren’t necessarily obvious to most users.


Apple Event Notebook: iPhone

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-14 17:21, modified at 17:56

Here I am, emptying out the rest of my notebook from Wednesday’s Apple event at the Steve Jobs Theater. First up was my stuff about the Apple Watch Series 4; now it’s time for the main event, the iPhone itself.

For smart shoppers who love big phones

Statistic of the day: The iPhone XR costs $350 less than the iPhone XS Max to start. That is a wide gulf, and I think it’s purposeful on Apple’s part. The gap between those prices allows the iPhone XS Max to be very clearly defined as a high-end device; in a sense, the $1099 (and up!) price tag is a label of quality and distinction.

But for smart shoppers who love large phones, it’s hard to imagine that the iPhone XR won’t be a success. In fact, it may be just as well that the iPhone XR isn’t ready for sale just yet—because I suspect the people who order iPhones the moment they become available are far more likely to be buying the iPhone XS Max.

For a less casual iPhone user? The kind who wanders into an Apple Store in early December and looks at all the iPhones, only to realize they can buy into the iPhone X line and get a big phone, all for $250 less than the smaller iPhone XS? That’s an iPhone XR sale.

Colors are fun, not the kiss of death

yellow iPhone XR

For years I’ve been begging Apple to bring fun colors to the iPhone, and here they are. They are gorgeous. The yellow pops, the blue is attractive, and the coral kind of blew my mind.

Now, colorful iPhones don’t have a fantastic history. The iPhone 5c crashed and burned. But I don’t think the iPhone XR will be another iPhone 5c. The 5c was recycled old tech, last year’s model with a new name and a plastic back. The iPhone XR has this year’s A12 processor, the same front sensors as the iPhone XS, and a glass back that doesn’t feel cheap at all.

My only aesthetic complaint is that I don’t love the lack of color matching between some of the models—the yellow model is bright yellow on its glass back, but the anodized aluminum frame seemed almost gold to me. Then again, color’s not really my thing—and I’d almost certainly buy the blue one if I had to choose.

Are there differences between the XR and the XS Max? Sure, a few. The LCD screen isn’t nearly as high density as the XS Max’s, nor can it manage the high dynamic range that the Max’s OLED screen can. It only has one camera on the back, so it can’t do an optical zoom, and its portrait mode will probably be a little bit less authentic feeling because it can’t use parallax between two cameras to build a depth map.

All true, and yet: $350. For a lot of people that will be the end of it. And they won’t be wrong. It’s a great value compared to the XS Max.

Boiling the frog

In that previous paragraph, I was about to write that the iPhone XR is “a great value,” full stop. Tricky Apple—this is how they get you. The fact is, the iPhone XR costs what iPhone Plus models cost until last year. It’s cheaper only in comparison to the iPhone X and XS.

Apple continues to boil the frog in terms of iPhone prices. This year there’s no new iPhone at the $699 price of the iPhone 8—which was already $50 more than the starting price of the iPhone 7.

iPhone unit sales are flat, but revenues are up, because the average selling price of an iPhone keeps going up. The iPhone XR is the cheapest new iPhone, but even in the context of last year’s increased prices, it’s not cheap.

When is a Plus a Max?

Why the iPhone XS Max name? Maybe Apple just got tired of the Plus name. But it’s also possible that Apple felt that Plus implied a level of stepped-up functionality that the Max just doesn’t offer. The iPhone X grabbed the two-camera setup previously limited to Plus models, so now the XS Max is only really different from its little buddy in terms of screen size and battery life.

Those are big differentiators, for sure, but it’s not a better phone in any real way. Just bigger. To the max, I guess.

A12 Bionic is the “S” feature

Phil Schiller
Phil Schiller loves the Neural Engine.

Truth be told, the iPhone XS is not a huge step forward from the iPhone X in terms of features. That’s not terrible, since most people upgrading to a new iPhone this year will be coming from phones they bought two or more years ago—and the iPhone X was that huge step forward.

Still, on these “S” years Apple tries to find little ways to differentiate this year’s model from last year’s. The big phones are obviously different because they’re big. But beyond those variations, what’s new?

What I found interesting is that Apple embedded the A12 processor, and specifically its expanded-core Neural Engine, into most of its descriptions of how this model year was better than last year. It’s all about machine learning, signal processing, the ability for CoreML to run nine times faster than on the iPhone X—and how that feeds improved camera features, better Animoji, improved AR performance, and the like.

It’s a little esoteric, but you have to work with what you’ve got. And if I’m being honest, it’s possible that the Smart HDR feature in the Camera app (powered by that Neural Engine, of course!) will be worth the upgrade on its own.

Apple talks computational photography

The laws of physics make it awfully hard to build a better iPhone camera. Sure, the advances Apple is making in terms of sensors and lenses will make a huge difference—but it’s still a thin phone that can only gather so much light.

So is it any wonder that Apple has decided to lean into computational photography? Not that it hasn’t been using custom hardware and software to improve photos for ages now, but this year it became an even bigger piece of the marketing equation.

The reason for this is that Apple feels it has an advantage it can press—namely, its chipmaking prowess. That improved Neural Engine, connected to the iPhone’s image signal processor, gives Apple a lot of hardware power to play with, on which it’s built custom software to make your photos look better.

This is a hot area right now, and Google is investing massively in photography technology of its own. Some might argue that taking pictures really is the killer app of the smartphone, or at least a huge part of any phone buying decision. Apple can’t be left behind here.

While Apple prides itself on creating “magic” technology that “just works”, at an event like this, the company needs to point out that there are actually a trillion operations going on behind the scenes to create great photos on the iPhone XS. Me, I loved it. The idea that every time you take a picture on your iPhone, you’re actually taking many different pictures that are all processed and merged together using machine-learning algorithms? That’s cool. And it’s worth the reminder, on stage.

Apple knows the market

Tim Cook
Tim Cook knows iPhones.

I’ve heard a lot of people complaining about how Apple has killed the iPhone SE and failed to update the classic iPhone 6/7/8 design, meaning that the iPhone X is the smallest new iPhone. Why does Apple hate people with small hands and pockets?

Apple doesn’t hate you. It hates small markets, though, and prefers to make products that serve large markets. None of us have to like it, but the smartphone market has spoken—and Apple’s surely been listening. Worldwide, so many people prefer big phone screens. Apple was late to the game with the iPhone 6 Plus, and it reaped a huge reward in pent-up demand from people who were just waiting for a bigger iPhone. Now Apple makes two big iPhones.

Will Apple ever make a smaller iPhone again? I suspect that it will, and that the iPhone SE might even return. Or maybe it’ll be called the iPhone 9. Regardless, I doubt it will be in the form of an iPhone 5. More likely the “small” iPhone will be the size of the iPhone 6/7/8. It’s not just the price tag of the iPhone that keeps getting larger, it’s the phone itself.

Jony Ive, voiceover artist

My last observation isn’t directly about the iPhone, but about how Apple used Jonathan Ive as the narrator for two videos during the presentation. Traditionally Ive has narrated videos that put the newly announced product into context in terms of why it was designed the way it was. Accompanied by loving close-ups of product contours, of course.

Now maybe my memory’s cheating, but it struck me during Wednesday’s event that these videos have evolved over time to the point that they’re just product videos, with very little to do with specific design choices.

I don’t mind Ive just being a voiceover artist. He’s pretty good at it. But he’s no longer playing the role of Apple Design Explainer so much as Apple Narrator.


(Podcast) Download #71: Small-Screen Enthusiast

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-14 16:00, modified at 17:26

This week on Download, I was joined by Christina Warren, Jeff Gamet, and Stephen Hackett to discuss the new Apple announcements. It’s a good conversation.


Apple Event Notebook: Apple Watch

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-13 23:29, modified on 2018-09-14 17:24

The two most important hours in the Apple year are the two hours that make up the annual iPhone event. They happened on Wednesday, and in the intervening day I’ve written a bunch of freelance articles, read a load of hot takes, and recorded some podcasts. And yet… there’s still a little bit more. Here are the observations that I’ve left rattling around in my notebook ever since I walked down the winding path (lined with smiling Apple employees) that took me away from the Steve Jobs Theater and back into reality.

First up, the Apple Watch. (Next, the iPhone.)

A defined focus

Four years ago Apple unveiled the Apple Watch, in a presentation that was the very definition of tossing spaghetti against a wall to see what sticks. The what-can’t-it-do approach of 2014 has become a disciplined, carefully constructed list of priorities in 2018. As Jeff Williams said on stage, the Apple Watch is “the ultimate guardian for your health, the best fitness companion, and the most convenient way to stay connected.” Health, Fitness, and Connections.

Better focus means better products. It also helps that Apple has four years of watch-building and technological development under its belt…

Shedding some baggage

The Apple Watch Series 4 is so much more capable than the original model was that it isn’t funny. Expanding the screen gives apps more room, but it also enables more and larger complications. After some false starts, Apple seems to have realized that the Apple Watch interface is about watch faces and the complications that live on them, just as the Mac is about Finder windows full of files and folders, and the iPhone is about a springboard window full of app icons.

Operating systems aren’t built in a day. They evolve slowly—sometimes more slowly than the hardware they’re running on. It’s taken watchOS a few years to find its footing and also progress from some of the choices that were made for the original model. For example, Apple has embraced washes of color on its new element-themed watch faces. The original Apple Watch design seemed terrified of displaying too much on its OLED screen for fear of depleting its battery, and of course any full-screen wash of color would also reveal the bezels on the display, which are also gone with the Series 4.

Complications for some, empty faces for others

The new Infograph and Infograph Modular watch faces are packed with information, for those who want that out of their watch. The larger screen means that app developers have room to spread out, creating new complications that span the width of the Infograph Modular face with items like a heart rate chart or a baseball linescore. And of course, if you tap on a complication, the corresponding app opens—which strikes me as the right approach to apps on the Apple Watch.

I have to admit that I rolled my eyes a little bit when I saw people decrying the information density of the two Infograph faces. Nobody’s forcing people to use these new faces. Apple has, in fact, provided a whole bunch of new pretty faces that contain nothing but some hands and a wash of color or an animated effect. Personally, I want an information-dense watch face… but if you don’t, Apple’s not going to force you to use one.

One feature can make a difference

After the event, I saw numerous people comment that they were seriously considering an Apple Watch purchase, all because a single feature had struck them as being worth it. The specific feature varied, of course.

Most common, I think, was the idea of a device that can detect your fall and call for help if you’re immobile for a minute. That’s great if you’re worried about falling as a runner or crashing as a cyclist, but it’s also a concern for people who are aging, infirm, and isolated.

But I also noticed a lot of people who were intrigued by the Series 4’s enhanced heart-health functionality. Heart problems are often silent killers, so the prospect of wearing a watch that can warn you if your heart rate dips, and allows you to perform an at-home EKG, is intriguing, too.

Extrapolating forward a few years, I can see how the Apple Watch (and devices like it) may end up becoming devices we just can’t live without, because of their connectivity and their increasingly sophisticated sensors.

Apple Watch joins Apple’s general price creep

Did you notice that, like last year’s iPhones, this year’s Apple Watches come with a bit of a price increase? This year’s Apple Watches start at $399 and $499; last year’s models started at $329 and $399. If you want to buy a Series 4 cellular watch, you’ll spend $100 more than a year ago.

Even at the low end, the entry price has risen by $30. The now-discounted Series 3 is $279. Last year, the Series 1 was $249.

Look, nobody has ever said being a user of Apple products was going to be cheap.


(Podcast) Rebound 204: The iPhone SB

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-13 21:15

This week, on the irreverent tech show that’s still sort of about the Apple Watch, we dissect the announcements from Apple’s latest event. Dan’s getting a Watch and a phone, Lex is on the fence about a phone, and John’s buying absolutely nothing. We also address the hard-hitting questions like “What does the ‘R’ in ‘iPhone XR’ stand for?” and “Will Apple ever make another iPhone SE?” and “Was this event kind of a snooze?”


What the Apple Watch's heart-health upgrade means

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-13 20:09, modified at 20:15

Here’s a nice explainer from CNBC’s Christina Farr about what the EKG features in the new Apple Watch mean, including the difference between FDA “approval” and FDA “clearance.”

I’ve noticed a lot of discussion from people connected to the medical industry regarding this feature in the last day. Some people really do believe that this could be a huge step forward in terms of diagnosing heart problems and saving lifes; other think it will generate a huge number of false-positive results that will lead to unnecessary doctor appointments and ER visits.


(Podcast) Clockwise #258: I'm Petty and I Want My Colors

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-13 17:32

This week, on the 30-minute tech show that occasionally celebrates Norse gods, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Lisa Schmeiser and Jeremy Burge to discuss Apple adding Dual SIM capability to the new iPhones, how to punish companies that expose our private information, why only the iPhone XR gets colors, and the end of small iPhones. Plus, in our bonus topic, learn why you should never play Uno with Mikah.


Ben Thompson on the iPhone as a franchise

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-13 15:46, modified at 15:49

Here’s some typically brilliant analysis from Ben Thompson of Stratechery. In his piece, Ben puts Apple’s interesting new iPhone product line in the context of its continuous ratcheting up of iPhone pricing—with a nod to the last time Apple tried to make a multi-colored iPhone with a funny letter stuck on the end.

Ben’s conclusion is fantastic:

That is the iPhone: it is a franchise, the closest thing to a hardware annuity stream tech has ever seen. Some people buy an iPhone every year; some are on a two-year cycle; others wait for screens to crack, batteries to die, or apps to slow. Nearly all, though, buy another iPhone, making the purpose of yesterday’s keynote less an exercise in selling a device and more a matter of informing self-selected segments which device they will ultimately buy, and for what price.

One of the most important things to remember when analyzing any new iPhone is to remember the extended buying cycles. The average iPhone XS and XR buyer won’t be updating from the iPhone X; they’re upgrading from an iPhone 6 or 6S or 7.


Harry McCracken makes sense of the iPhone lineup

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-13 03:00, modified at 03:02

Here’s a very nice piece from Harry McCracken (my longtime counterpart when he was editor of PCWorld) about the strange new iPhone lineup:

For all their similarities, the new phones don’t line up into a digestible good/better/best matrix. The cheapest model, the $749 XR, is the midrange model in terms of size and has a nifty twist—six different color options to choose from—which is unavailable on the XS and XS Max. But if you covet a bright-red iPhone in an intermediate size, you’ll have to decide whether the stuff the XR doesn’t have is an issue. And while some of what’s missing is obvious—the XR has only one rear camera—other omissions are somewhat arcane, like the fact it can withstand being submerged for 30 minutes in only one meter of water vs. two meters for the XS and XS Max.

Harry’s analysis seems dead on to me, including the fact that Apple’s all-in on large screens. (Motivated, I suspect, by its excellent knowledge of the desires of the global smartphone market.)


Hands-on with the new Apple hardware (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-13 00:20, modified at 00:21

Sure, there’s ample underground parking and free food, but the biggest attraction at any Apple media event is the chance to get your hands on new Apple products more than a week before they go on sale to the general public. I was there at Apple Park on Wednesday to see (and use) Apple’s latest iPhones and Apple Watch. Here’s what I learned.


(Podcast) Upgrade #210: Tennis Macs

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-13 00:15

Jason’s back from Apple Park, where he watched Apple unveil a new Apple Watch and three new iPhone models. We break down the naming choices and new features, the surprises and reveals, and (perhaps most importantly) the results of the 2018 Apple iPhone Event Draft.


Apple Event: Live from the Steve Jobs Theater

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-12 16:51

I’ll be posting live from the Steve Jobs Theater on Twitter at @sixcolorsevent, which is embedded below.


RSS Sponsor: Turn Touch

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-11 22:44, modified at 22:45

Simplify your smart home with the Turn Touch, a gorgeous wooden remote control. The Turn Touch’s elegant design features just four buttons, but with support for taps, double taps, and tap-and-hold, the device puts an wide range of sophisticated control at your finger tips. The Turn Touch is as tough as it is beautiful too. It’s constructed from dense, durable woods that stand up to shocks, drops, and dirt.

The Turn Touch works with your Mac and iOS devices, Hue lights, Sonos speakers, WeMo devices, smart thermostats, and much more. Also available is the Turn Touch Pedestal, which is sold separately and makes a perfect home base for the Turn Touch. Rest it on a table or mount it on the wall to use it as a smart wall switch.

Smart devices don’t have to be made of cheap, ugly plastic. Check out Turn Touch today to learn more and use the coupon code PEDESTAL25 at checkout for 25% off the Turn Touch Pedestal.


Apple's big Wednesday is almost here

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-11 16:22

The Steve Jobs Theater after 2017’s iPhone event.

So here we are. A day away from the big Apple event, the second public media event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino. And while last month’s inadvertent image leak was a huge spoiler, there’s always room for last-minute rumors and leaks.

Just outside the 24-hour window is MacRumors, who reported new tidbits from well-connected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, most notably the idea that the iPad Pro might be going to USB-C, and that the new low-cost Apple laptop might be replacing the 12-inch MacBook, and might include Touch ID. Both of these reports are a bit sketchy, but it’s Kuo, so they need to be taken seriously.

In the last week there’s also been a back and forth about possible product names, in the wake of Guilherme Rambo’s clever image sleuthing. Yesterday Mark Gurman reported that the “likely” names for the top-of-the-line products are, as Rambo reported, iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max. Gurman also says that Apple at one point considered calling the new lower-cost 6.1-inch LCD device “iPhone Xr.”

I don’t know. Those names seem weird, though I can see how Apple could easily spin it as the flowering of the iPhone X product line. The “Max” addition seems particularly inelegant and a little bit tasteless, though in the phone business I suppose not spelling it “Maxx” actually indicates restraint. (Maybe Max Headroom will make a cameo appearance?)

At this point I’ve written many articles about what will probably happen tomorrow, but there are always surprises. News reports can spoil the sweeping, big-picture items, but the details can still delight.

What differentiates the iPhone XS from its predecessor? Will there be new features, perhaps involving more image processing using the depth information from the front and back cameras? Will Face ID get improved? Are there some nice iOS 12 tidbits that have been withheld from the summer betas in order to “save” them for the iPhone XS?

That 6.1-inch iPhone remains a bit of a mystery, too. Yes, we know of its existence, but its price and the way it’s marketed are going to tell the tale. Even the name is still not entirely confirmed. How cheap is a “cheaper iPhone”? Is it $799? I’d guess so, but it could easily be $749 or even $699. (Still: nobody ever got rich betting the under on Apple pricing.)

The edge-to-edge display of the new Apple Watch was a nice catch by 9to5Mac, but there are so many questions still to be answered. Are there new sensors? How do all those new complications work, and do they work on a single watch face or across numerous faces?

Then there are the other products. Will AirPower finally get a ship date? Will we see a second generation of AirPods? These seem likely. Less likely are the dispositions of the other products rumored to be in progress for a release this fall: new iPad Pros, iMacs, and consumer Mac laptops. The lack of any explosive iPad Pro leaks this close to the event makes me feel that their appearance is not guaranteed, but I’m still going with my gut feeling that Apple doesn’t want to do two separate fall events, and so they’ll announce the iPad Pros on Wednesday… but hold the Macs for an announcement similar to this summer’s MacBook Pro roll-out, via press release and embargoed news and reviews from a small group of tech journalists.

Anyway, my point is: Apple’s going to roll out a whole lot of stuff tomorrow. We may know some of the big-picture stuff, but if you’re a regular reader of sites like this one, you know that the delight is in the details. How Apple pitches a new product is, at least to me, more interesting than the bare product specs themselves. And there are always, always surprises.

I’ll report in from Cupertino tomorrow!


Apple's Biggest iPhone Launch Ever: What to Expect (Tom's Guide)

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-11 15:15, modified at 15:20

It’s almost here. Apple’s annual iPhone event, this coming Wednesday, is perhaps the biggest single event on the technology calendar. Apple always uses the event to launch other products—we’ll probably see a new Apple Watch and possibly even new iPads or Macs this year—but the center of attention is, quite rightly, Apple’s biggest product: the iPhone. Here’s a look at what might happen.


Apple Watch discovers Jason Perlow's heart condition

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-10 23:41, modified at 23:46

Last year James T. Green said that Apple Watch had potentially saved his life after he had a pulmonary embolism. Today, we’ve got this story from ZDNet’s Jason Perlow, who reports that his Apple Watch discovered he was having serious, recurring cases of atrial fibrillation:

It turned out that during the time the ePatch was on me, I was in Afib 28 percent of the time — there was also a period of 21 hours where basically, it was happening constantly. I was told to go discuss this with my doctor right away, and they would forward the data to him for additional review.

Jason ended up having cardiac ablation surgery to get his heart rhythm back to regular, and he’s on the mend now. There is something to be said for wearing medical sensors on your body at all times.


September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-10 21:44, modified at 21:45

It’s September again, and that means our friend Stephen Hackett is asking for your help to support a great cause: St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

It’s a month that is of vital importance to my family. As some of you may know, our oldest son was diagnosed in May 2009 with a malignant brain tumor. In the blink of an eye, we went from a young family with a seemingly-healthy six month old baby to a young family facing the reality that our son was gravely sick.

Today, our son is in third grade. This week, he’s had library and computer class at school, run through the sprinklers with his two younger siblings and has forgotten to clean up his room before dinner as requested….

Josiah turns ten years old in November. To honor his birthday, and the amazing care he has been given at St. Jude, my goal is to raise $20,000 this month for the hospital — a symbolic $2,000 for every year.

I encourage everyone to donate today.


Bad AppleScript: Load the Template Gun!

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-07 21:35, modified at 21:40

For a couple of years now I’ve been using Zip files as templates for my podcast editing work, leaving them on my Desktop for quick access. But lately I’ve acquired enough template files that they were cluttering up my desktop. I decided I wanted to write a script that would work like a hot dog cannon, but for templates. Somewhere else on my Mac, I’d have a folder full of template files. Upon launching this script, I’d pick which template I want to be dispensed, and it will be unzipped and placed on my Desktop.

I’m sure there’s a way to do this with a four-line shell script, but I don’t know how to shell script and I do know how to use AppleScript, so that’s the path I chose to take.

set templateFolder to (alias "Macintosh HD:Users:jsnell:Dropbox:Podcast Templates:")    
tell application "Finder" to set theNames to the name of items in folder templateFolder

First thing’s first - I grab the contents of my Podcast Templates folder, both their full file references and their names.

 set mychoice to (choose from list theNames with prompt 
   "Choose your Template" default items "None" 
   OK button name {"Choose"} 
   cancel button name {"Cancel"}) as string

This is the command 1 that lets me choose which template I want from out of the items in the folder.

tell application "Finder"
    duplicate item ((templateFolder as text) & mychoice) as alias to (path to desktop folder)
    open item ((path to desktop folder as string) & mychoice) as alias
    delay 2
    delete item ((path to desktop folder as string) & mychoice) as alias
end tell

This next block copies the template file out of the folder, unzips it, waits two seconds (because sometimes it takes Finder a second or two to update), and then deletes the original archive. I considered unzipping a copy of the folder first, then moving that folder, but the name of the resulting unzipped folder could be anything—and I don’t want to do the work to guess. I know the name of the Zip archive, so that’s what I deal with.

For the Download podcast, which I only edit on the day of release, I’ve added a final bonus feature to the script that properly labels the folder and the Logic project inside with the right episode number.

if mychoice contains "Download" then
    set theDesktop as (path to desktop folder) as string        
    set unixDate to (do shell script "date +'%s'") as number
    set premiere to "1493316000" as number
    set newdate to unixDate - premiere -- seconds since premiere
    set newdate to newdate / 86400 -- days since premiere
    set weekcount to newdate / 7 --weeks since premiere
    set weekcount to weekcount as integer
    set weekcount to (weekcount - 1) --adjust for extra episodes
    set theNewName to ("Download " & (weekcount as string))
    tell application "System Events"
        set name of file (theDesktop & "Download Template:download.logicx") to (("download" & weekcount as string) & ".logicx")
        set name of folder (theDesktop & "Download Template") to theNewName
    end tell
end if

This is a more brittle fragment, because if I rename the Download template to something different it wouldn’t work. But that’s unlikely to happen. It uses the unix time format to figure out how many weeks it’s been since the first episode of Download, applies a fudge factor (for skipped weeks), and then renames the folder and template to the current episode number. It works!

Is my Template Gun script—which I saved as an app and dropped in my Applications folder, so I can launch it with LaunchBar—anything special? It most certainly is not. But it saves me a little bit of time and a little bit of Desktop clutter, and I’m glad I did it.


  1. Actually all one line, but broken up here for readability. ↩


What not to look for at the Sept. 12 Apple event (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-07 12:20

In the week before an Apple event, all is possibility. Could the company announce a new iPhone? Sure. What about a new Apple Watch? Seems likely. New Macs? Perhaps! What about a brand new version of the HomePod with built-in AirPort router capabilities? Ehhhhh, probably not.

Plenty of folks have already run down the announcements they expect to see next week, but let’s instead take this opportunity to highlight some things that Apple is reportedly working on but which probably won’t show up on stage. (And I’m not talking about far off products, like Augmented Reality headsets, the Apple Car, or the coming-in-2019 Mac Pro.) After all, there’s only so much the company can pack into a two-ish hour event: you’ve got to cut it off somewhere.


(Podcast) Rebound 203: Get Bent

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-06 14:30, modified at 14:31

This week, on the irreverent tech show that never mumbles, we discuss the leaked iPhone and Apple Watch shots, Lex tries to figure out Mastodon, Dan needs an AirPlay speaker, and John just can't let go of Dashboard. Plus, RIP NetNewsWire/long live NetNewsWire!


Details to watch for at next week's iPhone event (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-05 23:13, modified at 23:14

We’re a week away from Apple’s next big event. While Macworld’s own Jason Cross has done an excellent job of detailing what we expect to see, here are a bunch of smaller details I’ll be watching for carefully from my seat in the Steve Jobs Theater.


'Creative Selection': War stories from Apple's biggest moments

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-05 17:38, modified on 2018-09-07 03:23

creative-selection

Slowly but surely, the people involved in building the iPhone have begun to tell their stories about how it all happened. We’ve heard some good podcast interviews, but I think Ken Kocienda’s “Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs” may be the first book written by someone who was directly involved in the process of building the iPhone.

The book is a good, fast read that will provide people who work in the tech industry some perspective on how Apple’s product process works—the title refers to a multi-step process internalized by Apple employees that involves inspiration, collaboration, and iteration fed by judgments fueled by taste and empathy. I would imagine that Kocienda’s book will provide motivation for tech managers and fodder for business school classes.

For those of us who follow Apple closely, I’m not sure that there’s much surprise in the fact that Apple under Steve Jobs had a process that involved all of these factors. For people like us, Kocienda’s war stories about the early days of the iPhone (and, perhaps less exciting for book-marketing purposes but no less vital, the beginnings of WebKit and Safari) are the big draw here.

Kocienda leads with the very best stuff, namely a terrifying demo encounter with Steve Jobs in the early days of the development of the iPad. If you want to feel what it was like to work at Apple and await a few moments trying to show your work to Jobs and his senior team, “Creative Selection” delivers. (There are some delightful illustrations by Guy Shield throughout the book, including one of Jobs sitting in a threadbare conference room with a poster for Mac OS X Jaguar hanging askew behind him, directly from Kocienda’s anecdote.)

Having hooked you with Jobs, the book then backs up to recount Kocienda’s process in joining Apple, struggling with his career trajectory—there’s a missed promotion, a failed attempt to become a manager, and a retreat to a focus on being a developer—and ultimately being recruited to join Don Melton to figure out how Apple could build its own web browser.

Despite the huge importance of the iPhone, I found the section about Safari and WebKit to be the most fascinating part of the book. In those days, Internet Explorer was pretty much the only browser on the Mac, and the Mac was constantly being dinged for being slow at web browsing—in other words, Microsoft was responsible for a huge portion of public perception of how good the Mac was. It simply couldn’t continue, so Jobs ordered a new browser with a premium on speed.

Fair enough, but how does one go about building a new browser? Melton, Kocienda, and team addition Richard Williamson ended up investigating open-source code bases and making the somewhat counterintuitive choice of Konqueror from the Linux desktop environment KDE. Even knowing how the story ends, I enjoyed how Kocienda tells it.

When the book turns back to the iPhone, you get a sense about how secret the project was, from both sides of the divide. (Kocienda disturbs a manager just by hinting that he knows of the existence of a secret project, without actually knowing what it was.) Two years before the iPhone made its debut, a very small team of developers is putting the software together, running demos on Macs attached to weird touchscreen display peripherals called Wallabies.

Kocienda’s job was to build the iPhone’s software keyboard, and the process he went through is the cornerstone of the book’s examination of Apple’s creative process. There’s a bake-off of keyboard ideas, a pursuit of a few specific directions, some insight from colleagues, and a breakthrough that is not the end of the story, but the beginning of an iterative process that led to one of the most important aspects of the first iPhone.

(For those who don’t remember, the iPhone entered a world full of phones with hardware keyboards. Many people believed that Apple’s choice to prioritize touchscreen space and use a software keyboard was a decision that doomed the product. That didn’t turn out to be the case.)

If you’re looking for dirt on Apple from a former employee, you won’t get it in “Creative Selection.” Kocienda has left Apple, but he doesn’t go into details about why, and this is not a book about settling old scores—just telling stories while pondering about the underlying culture and processes that led things to turn out the way they did. I enjoyed reading it, and if you’re reading this site, you will too.


(Podcast) Clockwise #257: Prison Spotlight

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-05 17:15

This week, on the 30-minute show that airs in the nick of time, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Rose Orchard and Caitlin McGarry to discuss Skype adding call recording, HomeKit’s missing features, what we’re looking for in a new Apple Watch, and what one more thing might make an appearance at next week’s Apple event. Plus, a Nintendo-themed bonus question.


Wish List: Multiple flag colors in Mail on iOS

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-04 18:24, modified at 19:53

messageflag-colors
Multiple flag colors in Mail

Flagging messages is one of my secret joys. Because I use my inbox in Mail as a de facto to-do list, keeping track of messages I need to respond to, refer to, or otherwise take action upon is critical. For a long time, I’ve used flagging as a way to denote this status, and I particularly like that more recent versions of the app allow me to quickly filter for flagged messages. (Previously I used a Smart Mailbox to surface those messages, but the filter feature is much more efficient.)

Recently, however, I’ve found my system to be straining a bit at the seams. I’ve got a lot of ongoing projects in the next year or so, including a wedding to plan and a book to put out, so I’ve taken to using Mail on the Mac’s ability to flag messages in different colors to more easily categorize my lists: blue for wedding tasks, red for publishing related messages, orange for Six Colors queries, green for messages related to my game show Inconceivable!1

Sadly, Mail on iOS doesn’t have this same multi-color functionality. All the flags there are the same boring orange they’ve always been. This is a bummer when the feature already exists on the Mac. it’d be great to at least see mail flags of different colors in Mail on iOS, and I’d really love to be able to assign different flag colors. I realize that’s a little more complicated than the current flagging interface in iOS, but hey, this is the kind of place where 3D Touch could legitimately be useful: multiple flag colors is a feature not everybody needs, but those who do will actively seek it out.

Maybe I’m the only person out there using flags in this manner, but somehow I doubt it. Mail on iOS is in need of a bunch of enhancements, to be sure, and this might be the least of them—but it’s definitely some place to start.


  1. A game of nerdery and nonsense, etc. etc. ↩


(Podcast) Upgrade #209: The 2018 iPhone Event Draft

Permalink - Posted on 2018-09-03 19:23, modified at 19:24

It’s time for Jason and Myke to reveal their picks for what will happen on stage at the Steve Jobs Theater next week! They draft 10 different things they expect will happen—or not happen—next Wednesday. Did Myke’s competitiveness serve him well, or do him harm? Is Jason convinced that the Mac won’t make an appearance on stage? The winner could be crowned Upgrade Draft Champion for 2018.


NetNewsWire comes home to Brent Simmons

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-31 18:15, modified at 18:17

Brent Simmons, creator of the venerable NetNewsWire RSS reader, is taking possession of the name and building a new version:

You probably know that I’ve been working on a free and open source reader named Evergreen. Evergreen 1.0 will be renamed NetNewsWire 5.0 — in other words, I’ve been working on NetNewsWire 5.0 all this time without knowing it!

It will remain free and open source, and it will remain my side project. (By day I’m a Marketing Human at The Omni Group, and I love my job.)

Black Pixel will stop selling their versions of the app, and will turn off the syncing system and end customer support — all of which is detailed in their announcement. (Important note: I will not get any customer data from them, nor will I be doing support for Black Pixel’s NetNewsWire.)

Thanks to Black Pixel and congratulations to Brent.


'This should remind you of Windows Vista'

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-31 17:22, modified at 17:26

A little bit more on the impending security changes in Mojave, from SuperDuper developer Dave Nanian:

Many more advanced Mac users employ AppleScript or Automator to automate complicated or repetitive tasks. Behind the scenes, many applications use Apple Events—which underlay AppleScript—to ask other applications, or parts of the system, to perform tasks for which they are designed….

A really simple example is Xcode. There’s a command in Xcode’s File menu to Show in Finder. When you choose that command, Xcode sends an Apple Event that asks Finder to open the folder where the file is, and to select that file. Pretty basic, and that type of thing has been in Mac applications since well before OS X.

In Beta 8 of Mojave, that action is considered unsafe. When selected, the system alarmingly prompts that “”Xcode” would like to control the application “Finder”.” and asks the user if they want to allow it….

This should remind you of one thing: Windows Vista. Back when Microsoft released Vista, they added a whole bunch of security prompts that proved to be one of worst ideas Microsoft ever had. And it didn’t work. It annoyed users so much, and caused such a huge backlash that they backed off the approach, and got smarter about their prompting in later releases.

Perhaps Apple’s marketing team needs to talk to engineering?

This is a user-experience disaster waiting to happen.


A looming Mac automation apocalypse?

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-31 17:11, modified on 2018-09-17 18:57

Developer Felix Schwarz sounds the alarm about Mojave changes made for security reasons that could be really annoying and unhelpful for anyone who uses automation or apps that communicate with other apps (which is a lot of people!):

AppleEvent sandboxing, as of Mojave beta 9, is not in a good shape. The addition of new APIs in beta 7 telegraphed that Apple is still working on it. But it’s unclear what changes are still in the pipeline - and whether Apple can make enough progress before Mojave’s public release….

Ultimately, I’d like Apple to reconsider its approach when making changes like these to the foundation of macOS: introduce it at WWDC, but put it behind a feature toggle. Leverage the developer community. Enter into a dialogue to learn about unintended effects of the change, missing or bad APIs. Iterate. Make changes where needed. Provide comprehensive documentation well in advance. Then, at WWDC the year after, remove the feature toggle and make the change permanent.

A lengthy alert dialog.
Ugh.

I agree with Schwarz here; Apple’s goals with these changes are commendable, but why not provide a year for Apple and software developers to work out the bugs by shipping this feature with the ability to turn it off?

I wrote an AppleScript app last week to help automate how I use podcast editing templates. Even after adding it as an approved app by dragging it into the Accessibility list in the Privacy tab of the Security & Privacy pane in System Preferences 1, it still frequently demands approval at some point in the process of running. This is ridiculous. If these issues can’t be fixed by the time Mojave launches, maybe it’s worth backing off on them until all parties involved are ready?


Reading the tea leaves: Technologies Apple might be interested in (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-31 13:09

It’s a good thing I’m a tea drinker, because we here in the Apple pundit business spend an awful lot of time trying to read the company’s tea leaves. At best, we can glean only the slightest of indications of what Apple might have in store; the company rarely makes public-facing moves, preferring to keep its cards close to its chest.

In recent months, however, the company’s actually done a few things that could hint at some of its areas of interest over the next few years. Let’s take a quick look at those decisions and what they might mean for the future of Apple’s product lines—both the ones it has today, as well as the ones it might have tomorrow.


9to5Mac: iPhone XS, Apple Watch series 4 details

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-30 18:58, modified at 19:01

Well, here’s this season’s big leak. 9to5Mac appears to have gotten its hands on marketing materials, including high-resolution images, for several new Apple products. Among them: an image of the new OLED iPhones, which it says are called the iPhone XS. (I assume Apple will pronounce that “ten ess,” leaving the rest of us to say “excess.”)

There’s also an image of the new Apple Watch that suggests a bezel-less display packed with information, but with no huge changes to the outside appearance.

I really wonder how they managed to get these files. I’m glad I’m not a fly on the wall inside Apple’s marketing group right now.


Apple Event: September 12

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-30 16:09, modified at 16:10

There we go. I’ll be reporting live from Cupertino on September 12, as Apple unveils… who knows what? The iPhone, for sure. Apple Watch? Sure. iPads? Macs?


What does the future hold for Apple's MacBook Air? (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-30 15:45, modified at 15:46

Back in March I wrote a column for Macworld called “MacBook Air: Why won’t it die?”. I got a lot of angry feedback from people who apparently read the headline and not the article and evisioned me as the executioner of their beloved laptop.

I’m about as far away from that as I could possibly be. I have loved and used the MacBook Air from the time the first one shipped ten years ago. My point back in March was actually that Apple has been trying to kill the MacBook Air for a few years now—ever since the 12-inch MacBook was first released—but has never managed to finish it off.

A whole bunch of features that Apple views as old-tech liabilities—MagSafe charging, USB-A ports, an SD card reader, the new “butterfly” keyboard mechanism, and of course the lack of a Retina display—don’t seem to have fazed MacBook Air buyers. Instead, I keep hearing that the MacBook Air is one of Apple’s best selling computers. Certainly the $999 price tag is a huge reason why, and it’s a price the $1299 MacBook and $1299 13-inch MacBook Pro (without Touch Bar) haven’t been able to approach.

Anyway, Bloomberg reported last week that Apple is readying a low-cost replacement for the MacBook Air, a report that makes a lot more sense than the earlier report that Apple was going to update the Air itself.

So, is this it? Is it the swan song for the MacBook Air? And if so, what will replace it?


(Podcast) Rebound 202: Sweet Moltz Money

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-30 14:53

This week, on the irreverent tech that we’ve reduced Two and a Half Hosts, Dan and John engage in thoughtful discussion about iPhones, Bluetooth headphones, and John’s continuing Twitter departure. Also, Lex is here sometimes.


(Podcast) Clockwise #256: A High Stakes Podcast

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-29 17:11

This week, on the 30-minute show that’s like a lit fuse, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Kelly Guimont and Brian Hamilton to discuss our command-line usage habits, mindfulness decisions we’ve made around tech, the revival of the AirPort Express with AirPlay 2, and what tech constraints have taught us about ourselves.


AirPort Express: I'm Not Dead Quite Yet

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-28 21:06, modified on 2018-08-29 03:55

Zac Hall reporting for 9to5Mac:

Apple’s AirPort line may be discontinued, but AirPort Express got one heck of an update today. Firmware update 7.8 for the latest AirPort Express hardware (2012 2nd-gen model, no longer sold) adds support for AirPlay 2 and Apple’s Home app. The teaser for support has been present since iOS 11.4 beta, but support hasn’t been live before today’s version 7.8 firmware update.

Color me surprised, but this is great news for users of Apple’s small and versatile AirPort Express, which was used as an audio streamer in all sorts of places thanks to its 3.5mm speaker jack and support for AirPlay.

Update: Yep, it works! My ancient AirPort Express, pulled out of a drawer, is now playing music on an external speaker synced with my HomePod stereo pair and my Mac’s external speaker, which is an iPod Hi-Fi. (Oh goodness, if I attached the iPod Hi-Fi to the AirPort Express, it would be an AirPlay 2 speaker. Would the universe implode?)


(Podcast) Upgrade #208: The Villain of the Macintosh

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-27 21:28

As Apple’s much-rumored fall product launches get closer, Jason and Myke consider what the future holds for Macs and iPhones. And the Summer of Fun surfs into the sunset while hanging ten off of our favorite boards—keyboards, that is.


Is Buggy iOS 12 Beta a Sign of Trouble? (It's not.) (Tom's Guide)

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-27 15:45, modified on 2018-09-17 18:59

Using prerelease software is exciting. It puts you ahead of the curve, giving you access today to what everyone else will be downloading next week or next month. But it can be frustrating, too. After all, if the software was finished, it would already be released. Using beta software means dealing with bugs, slowdowns, and incompatibilities—all in the name of getting to live slightly in the future.

After years of using beta software, one of the lessons I’ve learned is that it’s a mistake to jump to any conclusions about the speed or stability of the final release based on the betas. I want to liken using beta software to going to see a preview of a Broadway musical, in that things will be tweaked and altered before the wider public sees the show. But it’s probably more accurate to say that it’s like working in a building that’s still under construction. There are great new views and lots of space, but sometimes the elevator may stop working and the water in the kitchen might be a little brown.

It’s worth keeping all of this in mind when we see reports of weird things going on with beta versions of upcoming software releases. I’m struck by the recent reports that Apple pulled a version of its iOS 12 beta due to performance issues, but this has hit me directly, too: for the last few days my beta-running iPad was unable to launch any apps via the search bar, which forced me to hunt through folders to find my apps.


The Talk Show: 'Smallen Up the Bezels'

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-25 00:28, modified at 02:28

I’m back on John Gruber’s The Talk Show this week! As I am apparently every late August. Who knew?

Special guest Jason Snell returns to the show. Topics do include mechanical keyboards, but do not — I swear — include baseball. Also: speculation on what Apple might do with the non-Pro MacBook lineup.

It’s a good listen. Lots of great topics in this one. Plus keyboards, because we’re like that. The naming and marketing conversation was a lot of fun. And I made John laugh with my picture of three happy-go-lucky dudes in the middle of the Antennagate press conference.


Brydge 12.9 Series II Keyboard: This is the one... at least for now

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-25 00:11, modified at 03:56

The new Brydge 12.9 keyboard with my 2015-era iPad Pro.

A year and a half ago, I reviewed the $149 Brydge Keyboard 12.9 and said it was the best mobile iPad Pro keyboard I’d tried 1. In the intervening time, I haven’t found any other device that has come close to working as well. I still use my Brydge 12.9 keyboard all the time.

There was one thing that kept me from giving a full-throated recommendation for the product, though—I had to try three units to find one that worked properly, and several of my friends reported the same experience.

I’ve got some good news. Brydge has built a second-generation 12.9 Keyboard, and it worked perfectly for me right out of the box. There are a few minor changes here and there, including very slightly reduced key travel, but it’s still an excellent keyboard more reminiscent of the MacBook Air or the Magic Keyboard than Apple’s more recent-generation laptops. I think I like the feel of the Brydge 12.9 Series II even more than the original.

Just to revisit what I like so much about the Brydge 12.9:

It’s an aluminum-bodied Bluetooth keyboard with the same surface area as the iPad Pro. At the top of the keyboard, there are two padded hinges into which you slide the iPad Pro. Once the two devices are attached, the iPad Pro is effectively a 13-inch laptop, albeit one with a touchscreen and no trackpad. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been using my iPad only to hear exclamations of shock the moment I start touching the screen, because up until that moment someone had been assuming that I was using a MacBook.

The back of the iPad Pro and the Brydge Keyboard.

The Brydge excels when it comes to ease of attachment and removal. I never want to commit to my iPad remaining a laptop for an extended period of time—I switch back and forth between modes all the time. If I want to go keyboardless, I want to be able to do it in a heartbeat—and all I have to do is pull my iPad right out of the Brydge to turn it back into a tablet. Inserting the iPad into the hinge clips on the Brydge takes a little training, but after I’d tried it a couple of times I could do it.

Because the Brydge has a flat bottom (thanks to the clips holding the iPad Pro in place) it works in my lap. So many tablet keyboards use a kickstand to stay up on flat surfaces, which works well on tables and desks, but not nearly as well on laps. The Brydge keyboard makes my iPad Pro a true laptop. And thanks to that hinge, I can adjust the view of my iPad screen to pretty much any angle I want—unlike many cases and stands, which only support one or two viewing angles.

I’m also impressed by Brydge’s looks. This is an aluminum deck that’s been color matched to the silver, space gray, and gold color of the iPad Pros. Because it’s aluminum, it does weigh about the same as the iPad Pro itself—meaning that when you’re carrying it around in laptop mode, it’s as heavy as a laptop. This doesn’t bother me, because when I want to use something lighter, I pull the iPad Pro out of the clips and walk away.

The keys of the Brydge Keyboard.

The Brydge keyboard does have couple of ergonomic challenges, ones exacerbated by iOS 11 and 12. To go to the home screen in iOS 12 or to display the dock and begin multitasking in iOS 11, you need to perform a flip-up gesture from the very bottom edge of the iPad Pro screen. The iPad Pro sits down so low in the clips that you basically can’t do that gesture without smashing your finger or slightly pulling the iPad up out of its clips.

This would seem like a big deal, but it’s not—because there’s a Home key on the keyboard itself. You just have to remember to press it rather than doing the flip-up gesture. And if you want to bring up the dock, iOS has you covered there—the same Command-Option-D shortcut that shows and hides the Dock on macOS works on iOS! So if I want to launch an app from the Dock or kick off a multitasking session, I start by displaying the Dock via a keyboard shortcut.

Also, it’s worth noting that this is not a Smart Connector-based keyboard… it uses Bluetooth. That means its battery will drain, though I can go months without needing to charge it. Once you’ve paired it with your iPad Pro, I’ve found that it’s pretty reliable at staying connected. When you close the clamshell by lowering the iPad onto the keyboard, both the iPad and keyboard turn off, and when you open the clamshell back up, the keyboard will turn itself on.

The corner of the Brydge keyboard.

So everything’s great! This is an amazing keyboard for the iPad Pro 12.9 and I highly recommend it.

There’s just one thing… rumors are that Apple will be releasing a new round of iPad Pros this fall, ones with new dimensions and without the large bezels that the Brydge uses to hold the iPad Pro in place. This means that if you buy the Brydge 12.9 keyboard, you’re unlikely to be able to use it (at least without some adapters or some fuss) with future iPad Pro models. That’s a bummer, but if you’re planning on holding on to your current 12.9 iPad Pro for some time, it’s not a dealbreaker.

Now that it (apparently) has its quality-control issues behind it, I hope that Brydge finds some way to bring its line of iPad keyboards to the new models, despite the potentially very different ergonomics. As much as I really like the Smart Keyboard, it doesn’t give me the typing experience I want when I’m in bed, on the couch, or in a chair in my backyard.

But that’s something to worry about for this fall. For right now, the Brydge 12.9 is the iPad Pro typing champion of the world.


  1. Yes, when I’m working in my kitchen I use a stand and an external keyboard instead. ↩


When the Mac mini goes pro, will the pros get Mac minis? (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-24 16:37

The Apple rumor mill never sleeps. This week, it was Mark Gurman and Debby Wu at Bloomberg who spurred discussion with their somewhat vague report about a new MacBook and a “professional” update to the Mac mini.

Over at Daring Fireball, John Gruber has already spent a lot of time ruminating on what said MacBook update might look like and where exactly it fits into Apple’s laptop lineup, but I find myself focusing more on the Mac mini news.

I’ve long been a fan of the diminutive desktop Mac, and I’ve owned two or three of them over the years, most recently a 2012 model that currently acts as my file and media server. It’s a great little computer, especially after I spent the time to upgrade it a little bit, but it’s never really struck me as a “pro” machine, which got me thinking: What exactly might a pro Mac mini entail?


(Podcast) Rebound 201: My Best Day of Exercise in Four Years

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-23 14:40

This week, on the irreverent tech show where a guy from New Jersey is sometimes replaced by a Scotsman, we discuss the latest rumors about upcoming Mac models and what exactly a “professional” Mac mini is. Plus, everybody’s* leaving Twitter for Mastodon.

*(Okay, not everybody.)


Joe Posnanski changes jobs (again)

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-22 21:55, modified at 23:55

Joe Posnanski is one of my favorite sportswriters. (He also hosts one of my favorite podcasts, The Poscast.) Today he announced he’s leaving MLB.com and will instead be launching a new project and also joining The Athletic to contribute some football and Cleveland Browns coverage 1.

Joe is roughly my age. Our kids are roughly the same age. (We’re both nerds who are shocked to have daughters who are cheerleaders.) And we are both people who have been in the media business the past couple of decades, which means we have seen some stuff. This section of his personal announcement really hit home:

Let me add a personal note in here because many people have said the same thing since hearing about the job change: “Wow, you change jobs a lot.” I have. Over the last decade, I really have… It’s not something I intended to do. I thought I’d be the person who worked at a newspaper for 50 years and at the end, if I did the job well enough, they would name a high school award or something after me.

Newspapers struggle to survive. Magazines struggle to survive. Internet versions of each struggle to survive. You know all this. I have many friends, dozens of friends, sensational reporters, brilliant editors, who cannot find any work at all. Others pick up a few odd jobs when they can. I hear all the time about unemployment numbers across the country being at all-time lows and the economy churning, but that does not register with my life. Every day, I see and hear from wonderfully gifted people trying desperately to find a place for their talents in this crazy business. I see even more of them who give up the business and move on to something else.

We are told daily, in countless ways, that what we do has little to no value. It isn’t just Fake News and all that garbage. We are told about the collapse of the advertising model. We are told that people will not pay to read our words. We are told that the value of words drops every single day. We are told there’s no viable market for what we do, for penetrating reporting, for powerful storytelling, for a compelling narration of all that happens around us. I don’t believe any of that. I believe what the best reporters and storytellers do is more valuable now than it has ever been….

None of us chose to be born in this volatile time in our business. You don’t get to choose your time. I wouldn’t change a single thing about the last ten years, wouldn’t pass up any of the wonderful opportunities I’ve had. It is also true that if I had been born 20 years earlier, I might have that high school award named for me.

In exchange for quoting liberally from his piece, let me point you to Joe’s Patreon. Yep, direct support from readers is just another thing we have in common. (Thank you.)


  1. Joe’s coverage of the Cleveland Browns, written from the perspective of a Browns fan who is keenly aware of just how historically inept they are, has reduced me to tears of laughter on more than one occasion. ↩


A dockable iPhone? Don't count on it (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-22 21:11, modified at 21:12

This is a weird time in the technology world. The traditional PC, strong for four decades, is on the wane. The smartphone is dominant, devices so powerful that they can rival the power found in those traditional PCs. We’re rapidly exiting the era where devices were differentiated based on raw computing power, and entering one where ergonomics becomes a defining factor.

(No, I’m not saying that there aren’t cases where PCs still have more power than phones. I’m saying that away from high-performance edge cases, the differences are increasingly small.)

If we accept that an iPhone can do most of the work that most people need a computing device to do, where does that leave the iPad and the Mac? It means that they’re defined by their shapes, by how we control them and hold them and look at them. A MacBook is a good choice because it’s got a big screen attached to a hardware keyboard and a trackpad. An iPad is a good choice because it’s got a much larger screen.


The Aqua Screenshot Library

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-22 18:57, modified on 2018-08-24 23:20

Stephen Hackett has been working on this for a very long time, but it’s finally here. A visual catalog of the Mac OS X interface, with every major version present, with all images taken on real Mac hardware.

Wow, the skeuomorphic era was brutal.


(Podcast) Clockwise #255: Reverse Sherlocked

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-22 17:35

This week, on the 30-minute show where only one host has lost his voice, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Shelly Brisbin and John Voorhees to discuss our usage of Do Not Disturb, the death of Back to My Mac, the rise of Mastodon, and rumors of a “pro” Mac mini. Plus, a special bonus question of a musical bent.


You can't go back to your Mac again...

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-21 19:30, modified on 2018-09-17 18:57

Apple has announced that the forthcoming macOS Mojave will discontinue support for the Back to My Mac service first introduced in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. A recently published knowledge base document lays out alternatives that offer much of the same functionality.

Back to My Mac made it easy to retrieve files or screen share with another Mac, no matter where it was, but other technologies have more or less obviated the nature for the service, which always was a bit on the unreliable side. Apple’s suggesting the use of iCloud Drive if you need to retrieve files remotely, and macOS’s Screen Sharing technology appears to allow for remote access without the need for further configuration.

This won’t cover every capability Back to My Mac provided, but given the feature’s flakiness, I imagine it was not in widespread use anymore.


First-time tooter

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-21 18:56

Social network Mastodon is rearing its head again, as Twitter has provoked a new wave of frustration amongst users. It’s a little more complicated as a concept than Twitter, but the best primer on it that I’ve found so far comes from our good friend Joe Rosensteel.

The short version is that Mastodon clones features of Twitter with open source software that can be run on any server. Those servers talk to each other and form a larger world than any one server could. The default place most people land is mastodon.social but they have halted admissions because of the large influx of people leaving Twitter at the same time. You can join mastodon.cloud or any other server. Since your server can talk to the others, and you can move your account to another one, there’s no immediate pressure. There’s a timeline which is functionally like Twitter - or at least how it was back when it was chronological. You can mute, block, follow, etc.

The longer version …

I’ve set up shop at @dmoren@zeppelin.flights, an instance that Jason is running, but you can follow it from any other Mastodon instance. If none of that meant anything to you, it’s probably worthwhile to read Joe’s article.


Bloomberg: Apple Planning Low-End MacBook, Pro Mac Mini

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-20 20:34, modified at 20:39

Mark Gurman and Debby Wu of Bloomberg are reporting that Apple will release two new Macs this fall:

Apple Inc. will release a new low-cost laptop and a professional-focused upgrade to the Mac mini desktop…. The new laptop will look similar to the current MacBook Air, but will include thinner bezels around the screen. The display, which will remain about 13-inches, will be a higher-resolution “Retina” version that Apple uses on other products….

Apple is also planning the first upgrade to the Mac mini in about four years…..The computer has been favored because of its lower price, and it’s popular with app developers, those running home media centers, and server farm managers. For this year’s model, Apple is focusing primarily on these pro users, and new storage and processor options are likely to make it more expensive than previous versions, the people said.

Well, I’ve been thinking the Mac mini would come back for a while now, but it’s good to get more evidence that it might be finally seeing an update. I’m one of those people in the apparent target market for this update, which is even better!

As for the new laptop, this makes a bit more sense. The Bloomberg report doesn’t say that it will be an updated MacBook Air so much as that it will take the MacBook Air’s place in the product line-up, so Apple can finally convert its entire laptop line to Retina displays. That lowest-cost laptop has been a sweet spot for Apple for years, and right now the product line is caught between old tech and more expensive new tech. This would be a good step forward.


(Podcast) Upgrade #207: Max Rebate

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-20 19:27, modified at 19:33

Is it finally time for the iPhone to support an Apple Pencil? Myke and Jason discuss the possibilities. And then the Summer of Fun rolls on with a mega-sized #askupgrade!


Apple’s best media moves (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-17 17:27

When it comes to entertainment, Apple has a long and storied—if you’ll pardon the pun—past. This has formed a sort of shifting triangle of power where Apple, customers, and the entertainment industry have, at various times, found themselves facing off against each other, or making unlikely alliances.

In recent years, Apple has more and more ended up making decisions that seem to closely align with the interests of its customers. That’s not particularly a surprise, since the customers are ultimately who keep Apple in business, but getting entertainment companies to buy in on those moves is an equally happy development.

This bodes well for Apple itself, especially as it prepares to launch its own original video programming at some point in the not-too-distant future. Because that, as with Apple Music, is going to require customers to pony up their hard-earned money, and Apple needs to prove that it’s going to do right by them. The good news is, these recent decisions make a convincing argument.


(Podcast) Rebound 200: 200th Episode Spooktacular

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-16 14:38

Join us for the scariest, eeriest, downright most terrifying episode of The Rebound yet! Because nothing is scarier than the realization that nobody has been able top stop this show for 200 episodes. We discuss Apple’s software and hardware delays, Twitter’s continuing problems, security concerns for the Echo and Google, and Tim Cook’s dining partners.


Use Photos to fit event photos into a single timeline

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-15 22:01, modified at 22:05

The bride and groom shouldn’t be cutting the cake while we’re all still riding a double-decker bus to the reception.

I went to a wedding in London over the summer, and as you might expect at an event full of techy people, I ended up with hundreds of photos of the event from numerous sources—at least six. I imported them all into my Photos library and then discovered that they were all mixed up—the bride walking down the aisle, immediately followed by dancing at the reception, followed by the exchanging of vows.

Most cameras embed time data on every file they take, which is great, but whenever I try to mix photos from multiple sources in one place, I end up discovering all the ways that the clocks don’t match. For some of them, the clock is right but the time zone is wrong. For others (especially non-cellular devices that rely on a human to set their clock correctly) there are a few minutes of drift. For still others, there’s a time but not a time zone embedded.

Anyway, as a user of Photos for Mac, I end up needing to figure out how to get the times of the various cameras at an event adjusted and in sync. To do this, I use two tools: Smart Albums and the Adjust Date and Time command.

info-window-photos

Since each camera may have its own time discrepancies, the first thing I do is figure out what cameras were shooting at the event. Do to this, I open the Info palette by typing Command-I, then click on a photo. The Info Palette will reveal all sorts of information about the shot I’ve selected, including which camera model took it.

By clicking on the photos on either side of any time discontinuities I spot in my list of Photos (which is, of course, sorted by time, with newer items toward the bottom), I can quickly spot the different makes and models of cameras being used at the event.

Then, for each camera I find, I create a Smart Album designed to display only photos from that camera on the day of the wedding. To do that, I choose New Smart Album from the file menu and then add two conditions: Date Captured is the day of the wedding, and Camera Model includes some unique portion of the camera name.

Being sure to set the whole thing to Match all of the following conditions and giving it a name that makes it clear which camera it’s collecting gets me this:

Smart Album in Photos

Once these are created, I’ll be able to batch-modify all the results from a single camera, because presumably if one of the photos it took is off by an hour, all of the photos are.

Then I go back to my list of photos and try to identify those time discontinuities—here’s the throwing of confetti, preceded by a toast by the Best Man. Using the floating Info palette, I do a little detective work and figure out what the time discontinuity is. (For instance, the wedding started at 1pm, so that shot of the bride walking down the aisle at 12pm is probably off by an hour.)

In the case of this summer’s wedding, one SLR was off by a few minutes. The others seem to have been set with the correct local time but no time zone, so Photos assigned them to my current time zone—placing them eight hours behind London time.

In any event, once I figure out the offset for any particular camera, I switch to that camera’s Smart Album, select all the photos, and choose Adjust Date and Time from the Image menu.

In the resulting sheet, Photos displays the first item in the selection, with its current date and time settings, which I can adjust as needed. There’s also world map, from which I can pick the proper time zone. After adjusting the time zone and actual time, I click Adjust, and Photos will move every single photo I selected—in other words, all the photos shot by that camera—into what should be the proper time zone and with the right time stamp.

Then I switch back to the main Photos view and see if those photos are now in the right order. (If they’re not, no problem—I can adjust the date and time on a set of photos endlessly until I get it right.)

I continue the process with all the other cameras until the Photos view runs from the nervous groom checking his tie all the way to people joyously dancing at the reception, all in the right order at last.


Apple's Group FaceTime delay is the right move. Here's why (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-15 19:12, modified at 19:13

This week Apple removed Group FaceTime from the beta for iOS 12, and indicated that the feature will not appear in the initial release, but will rather appear in a subsequent update released later in the year.

For people who were excited about audio and video chats with multiple friends, this is a bummer. (I heard from several people who said their kids were especially looking forward to using the feature, or were using it in the beta period and were sad that it’s going to be removed for a little while.)

But I’m a little less down on Apple making this decision. Every time I used group FaceTime in the iOS and macOS betas, it was far from flawless. I had connection problems, video and audio would disappear and reappear at random, sometimes a person would appear multiple times in my view (or disappear altogether), and there were numerous cosmetic defects to the interface, too. It seemed… very beta. And clearly someone at Apple decided it was just not going to be solid enough by release time.

More broadly, though, I support this sort of move because it’s Apple realizing that it has a particular quality standard it’s supposed to meet, especially for new features. It can’t be easy to delay a banner feature of your next operating-system release, but when the alternative is releasing something that’s not good enough, this is the right choice.


Tech notes from my European vacation

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-15 19:06, modified at 21:03

rainbow apple logo
An independent Apple repair shop in London.

[A longer version of this story appeared in the monthly newsletter that goes to all Six Colors members.]

Earlier this summer my family and I spent a couple of weeks in Europe. Here are some observations about ways our technology helped (or hindered) us during our trip.

Prepaid SIM cards

I bought us prepaid Three SIM cards for less than $30 each, so we had more data than we could possibly use. In the early days of smartphones, when international data cost a fortune, I remember wandering around Stockholm, toggling my iPhone out of Airplane Mode just long enough to load a street map. It was the worst. These days, not having data is just not an option.

For us—given the length of our stay and our carrier back home—the Three SIM cards were the best deal. Check with your carrier to see what their plans look like if you’re going to take a trip, but keep in mind that if your phone’s unlocked, buying a temporary SIM card can be a great option. (T-Mobile U.S. customers get free access to a low-speed network when they roam; AT&T customers like me need to pay $10 per day per phone when roaming, which would be a decent deal for a short trip, but not a long one.)

Transit directions

The single best thing about this trip in terms of technology was our use of the transit directions in both Apple Maps and Google Maps. In Amsterdam, we bought 48-hour tram passes and were busy zig-zagging our way around the city, from our rented apartment that was conveniently located on a block with a tram stop.

Public transit in an unfamiliar city can be really stressful. All that stress vanished with the aid of the transit app on my phone. At one point, we were standing in a plaza in central Amsterdam, and my family was unsure about what we wanted to do next. I had a couple of friends recommend a brewery on the other side of town, next to a windmill, but I had looked on a map and realized it was nowhere near anywhere we were planning on going. But I put the brewery into Apple Maps and it couldn’t have been simpler: Walk a block and a half to a very specific tram stop, ride that tram for 10 minutes, and walk across a canal to the brewery. The beer was really good and the Dutch crowd quite enthusiastic, because Germany was in the process of being knocked out of the World Cup while we were there.

I’ve used the Tube in London for ages so I feel much more confident with it, but the location of our hotel wasn’t near the right tube lines for some of our destinations. With the added confidence from my map apps, we were able to walk a couple of blocks and hop a double-decker bus to get us where we needed to go. Other than the stifling summer heat of a London heat wave, the bus was great.

Apple Pay everywhere

In the U.S., Apple Pay is kind of a crapshoot. Some places have it, and some places don’t. In the UK, almost every terminal supports contactless payments, because most credit cards have RFID chips embedded in them. (This is not the case in the U.S., for whatever reason.) And in the UK, if a terminal supports contactless, it supports Apple Pay. So basically, the whole country supports Apple Pay, and so almost everything I bought in the UK, I paid with my Apple Watch.

In the Netherlands, alas, Apple Pay is not yet active, though there are rumors that it’s coming soon. I hope so! Several of the places we went in Amsterdam have converted entirely to cards—they don’t accept cash at all. (Unfortunately, there were also a few places—like a grocery store—that wouldn’t accept any American credit cards, so we had to pay with cash. Get it together, Holland. I want to buy more stroopwafels.)

Nintendo is dumb

My son has a Nintendo 3DS that he wanted to bring with him to Europe. And while I’m a big fan of Nintendo in general, I can’t believe that any major consumer-electronics company is allowed to get away with what they’ve done with this product. In North America, the Nintendo 3DS is sold without a power adapter.

No problem, you think. Just use one of a million USB cables that you’ve got around your house. That’s a great idea, except the 3DS also uses a proprietary power connector, so you can’t use any cord other than the one made by Nintendo. What a bunch of jerks.

Anyway, it gets even worse. While prepping for this trip, I rounded up all of my plug adapters—little plastic things that convert North American plugs into the electrical plugs formats used by Europe and the UK—to toss in a bag. They’re great! And I realized that while all of Apple’s adapters (save the tiny iPhone cube) and my Anker 5-port USB adapter can handle the different voltages of the U.S. and Europe, I didn’t know if that Nintendo adapter did.

Welp. It doesn’t. The must-buy-separately power adapter for the Nintendo DS is so cheap that it only accepts the 110V standard found in North America.

We just brought the Nintendo Switch instead. It charges via USB-C. Before our next trip I’ll probably buy my son a USB charging cable for the DS instead.

CarPlay!

CarPlay screen

I have written about Apple’s CarPlay in-car connection technology a bit. I even bought a CarPlay stereo and installed it… on my desk. But this was the first time I have ever used CarPlay in person in a moving car, because we rented a car in Newcastle and drove it through the Lake District. It was fun to see the map actually update because we were moving, because my desk doesn’t go above 1mph.

I will say this, though: Because the current version of CarPlay only supports Apple Maps (this fall, with iOS 12, things will change!), we were forced to use it—and got bitten more than once. In the first case, Apple Maps rerouted us without telling us, moving us off of a large, well-traveled A road and instead sending us through a shortcut down terrifyingly narrow roads not suitable for Americans who haven’t driven in the UK in 18 years.

In the second case, Apple Maps navigated us to a Texaco station that was, in fact, someone’s house. With no station in sight. Fortunately, there was a gas station a quarter of a mile away, but this was a outright phantom point of interest. I used the Apple Maps feedback mechanism to indicate that indeed, the “Texaco station” was no longer in business at that location—and in fact, had never existed. At some point in London I received a push notification from Apple Maps indicating that, thanks to my feedback, that POI had been removed from the Apple Maps database.

The Texaco has been removed.

So that’s something, I guess? But the next time I’m driving in Europe with CarPlay I’m using Google Maps.


(Podcast) Clockwise #254: Gigs and Teras of Flop Data

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-15 16:51

This week, on the 30-minute tech show that is never delayed for weather, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Aleen Simms and Rene Ritchie to discuss how often we shut down or restart our computers, what to do with a problem like Twitter, the fate of all those EarPods we get, and what camera improvements we’d like to see in the next iPhone. Plus, stupid Avengers assemble!


'The Scientist Who Scrambled Darwin's Tree of Life'

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-14 16:25, modified at 16:30

This story (actually a book excerpt) by David Quammen hits my sweet spot. It’s a magazine feature about science that mixes the personalities of the scientists, the excitement of discovery, and a solid explanation of some mind-blowing discoveries that really change how we look at the origins of life on this planet.

This is my favorite part:

The mechanics [to read ribosomal RNA] were intricate, laborious and a little spooky. They involved explosive liquids, high voltages, radioactive phosphorus, at least one form of pathogenic bacteria and a loosely improvised set of safety procedures. Courageous young grad students, postdocs and technical assistants, under a driven leader, were pushing their science toward points where no one had gone before. OSHA, though recently founded, was none the wiser….

The work was deceptively perilous. [Former grad student Mitchell] Sogin described to me the deliveries of radioactive phosphorus (an isotope designated as P32, with a half-life of 14 days), which amounted to a sizable quantity arriving every other Monday. The P32 came as liquid within a lead “pig,” a shipping container designed to protect the shipper, though not whoever opened it. Sogin would draw out a measured amount of the liquid and add it to whatever bacterial culture he intended to process next. “I was growing stuff with P32,” he said, tossing that off as a casual memory. “It was crazy. I don’t know why I’m alive today.”

I’ve heard of horizontal gene transfer before, but the ramifications of that discovery had never really hit me until I read this article. Life is wondrous and complicated and we are still struggling to understand all the biological mechanisms that drive its growth and change.


(Podcast) Upgrade #206: The Rings in a Tree

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-13 21:58, modified at 21:59

This week Myke breaks his iPad, Jason visits the Microsoft Store and leaves with an Xbox, and we pick our favorite video games of all time.


Group FaceTime delayed until later this fall

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-13 19:09, modified on 2018-09-17 18:58

As first noticed by developer Guilherme Rambo, Apple has removed Group FaceTime from the versions of the iOS 12 and macOS Mojave betas released today, with release notes saying that the feature will instead “ship in a future software update later this fall.”

For those paying close attention, this is pretty similar to what happened last year to AirPlay 2, a feature that only officially arrived in May of this year—shortly before WWDC.

There’s no inherent problem with taking a little longer to make sure a feature is fully baked: a late feature that works as intended will trump an on-time feature that’s broken.

That said, this has become enough of a regular occurrence with Apple that the company’s burned through some of its trust with users. A promise of “later this fall” doesn’t necessarily inspire confidence that Apple will hit this (admittedly self-imposed) deadline.

It also raises some eyebrows about why the company can’t seem to deliver some of these features as originally promised. 1


  1. And hey, speaking of things going MIA, where exactly is the AirPower charging pad introduced at last September’s event?  ↩


Here's How the iPhone X Plus Will Answer the Note 9 (Tom's Guide)

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-12 14:47, modified at 14:48

This week, Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Note 9, a high-end device that matches Apple’s iPhone X on the most notable item on any spec sheet: price. With the Note 9, Samsung has laid its cards on the table; in a few weeks, Apple will counter with new iPhones, including — if the rumors hold — an iPhone X Plus that properly matches up with the Galaxy Note 9.

Here’s a look at some of the key Galaxy Note 9 features and how they might compare to whatever Apple has up its sleeve for next month.


Patreon buys Memberful

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-08 16:33, modified at 17:01

Patreon, a company that lets people directly support creaters of stuff, just bought Memberful, a company that does the same thing in a different way. Ben Thompson of Stratechery has an exclusive interview with the founders of both companies. Here’s Patreon founder Jack Conte:

There’s a whole segment of the market that doesn’t want to build a membership business on someone else’s platform, they want full control of the branding, they want full control of the experience. Right now Patreon is unable to serve that market, if we were to build that, it would be a completely separate thing. Working with the Memberful team accelerates us into that market segment, so it gives us a very big head start. I would say mostly that’s where the value is.

I realize that this is a bit inside baseball, but I’ve been using Memberful for the membership programs for both Six Colors and The Incomparable for a couple of years. In fact, the above paragraph describes me perfectly: I didn’t want to use Patreon, I wanted to build two membership programs myself and integrate them directly with my two sites. Memberful let me do that.

It’s a smart move by Patreon, then, to recognize that this is a part of the market they couldn’t serve, and they chose to buy a team that knows how to do it rather than building a duplicate in-house. I’m cautiously optimistic that this will mean good things for all of us who rely on Memberful for an important portion of our incomes as content creators.

(Here’s Stephen Hackett, another Memberful customer twice over, with his thoughts.)


Digesting the rumors: Where's the iPad Pro going next? (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-08 16:01

If the rumors are true—and they are often, if not always—Apple is preparing to release a new generation of iPad Pro models this fall. I bought the first-generation 12.9-inch iPad Pro back in 2015 and still use it as my primary portable computer, so I’m excited at the rumors of a major iPad Pro redesign. Let’s sift through the rumors and reports and see if we can figure out where the iPad Pro is headed next.


(Podcast) Clockwise #253: Creepy Beating Heart

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-07 18:04, modified at 18:05

This week on the 30-minute show that’s all about R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Lory Gil and Justin Michael to discuss our complicated feelings about iOS’s Low Power mode, how much we would pay for a calendar app, Microsoft walking back classic Skype’s demise, and indie games we’ve played. Plus, a space-themed bonus question.


Skype 7 gets a reprieve

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-07 13:18, modified at 13:58

Microsoft had intended to end support for the desktop version of Skype 7—aka “classic” Skype—in September, but a backlash has prompted the company to reconsider that decision

Based on customer feedback, we are extending support for Skype 7 (Skype classic) for some time. Our customers can continue to use Skype classic until then.

For many, including podcasters, Skype is an essential tool in our workflow. Skype 8 not only introduced jarring interface changes—bringing it into line with the mobile app—but also lacked features from the earlier version of Skype, including, at one point, the ability to specify an audio input inside the application.

Despite the limitations in classic Skype, we continue to rely on it at The Incomparable and Relay FM. Alternatives have arisen in the past few years, but Skype remains one of the most commonly used audio chat tools. Especially when you run a podcast that has different guests every week, Skype is still the VoIP client you can count on everybody to have installed. Or, to paraphrase the old Winston Churchill saw, “Skype is the worst piece of VoIP software, except for all the others.” 1


  1. I recently had to configure the SIP client Linphone for a radio interview and wow, if you think Skype is bad, try that sometime.  ↩


Podcast player Castro adds sideloading and pre-selected chapter skips

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-06 22:58, modified at 23:00

Sideloaded files sync from iCloud Drive (1), then appear in the Inbox (2), where you can play them as if they were podcast episodes (3).

iOS Podcast app Castro has been updated to version 3.1, and it’s got a couple of cool new features for subscribers to the Castro Plus tier of the product.

Castro now supports sideloading audio files that aren’t a part of a podcast feed, so if you’ve got a random MP3 or M4A file that you want to listen to as a part of your podcast playlist, you can add it to Castro by placing it in the Castro folder inside iCloud Drive, whether you’re on a Mac or an iOS device. Castro spots audio files placed in that folder and automatically ads them to the Inbox or Queue, depending on which you prefer.

I used this feature to preview a future episode of a podcast that had come in from an outside editor, listen to a DRM-free audiobook, and even listen to the audio of a special episode of a podcast that I pulled off of YouTube.

castro-31-select-chapters
You can choose which chapters of a podcast you want to listen to—in advance.

The other big new feature is what Castro’s creators are calling “Chapter Pre-Selection.” Lots of podcasts these days have chapter markers that break a single episode up into individual segments; with Castro 3.1, you can select which chapters you want to play—and which ones you don’t—in advance. One way to view this feature is as an easy way to skip podcast ads entirely (so long as they’re properly chaptered). That’s probably going to happen, but I like the idea that before you start a long drive you can opt out of specific topics in a podcast that you don’t consider interesting.

As a podcast creator, I build my podcasts to be listened to straight through and at 1x speed, but I know that listeners are going to want to fit my stuff into their lives in ways that I just can’t anticipate. They’ll listen at 1.5x and skip stuff and who knows what else, and that’s fine. If someone wants to skip over the Upstream segment in Upgrade every week, they can do that—though in my opinion, they’ll really be missing out.

As a podcast listener, I’m always happy to get new tools to help make my podcast listening be as customized to my desires as possible. The ability to tailor your audio experience to be exactly what you want it to be is a big reason podcasting is so much better than radio.


Applications Folder: iExit Interstate Exit Guide

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-06 19:20, modified at 20:25

[Applications Folder is a column where we pick an obscure app in our Mac’s Applications folder, or somewhere on our iOS devices, and talk about why we use it. It appears in the monthly newsletter that goes to all Six Colors members. This post appeared in the May 2018 newsletter.]

I use Apple Maps and Google Maps and Yelp and they’re all helpful in finding places to go and how to get to them. But when I’m on a long drive on a freeway—where you’re from you might call them highways or turnpikes or motorways or who knows what else, we seem to have accumulated a bunch of different names for enormous expressways with limited exits and entrances separate from street traffic—the usual apps become less helpful.

Driving on the freeway is all about exits. If I’m driving on freeways for a few hours, I don’t want to search for what restaurants or gas stations or whatever are around me—I want to search for what points of interest are near the various exits along my route. And that’s what iExit provides. I’ve been using it for years, and it’s always been a vital aid when I’m sitting in the passenger seat trying to figure out when we’re going to break for lunch. We used iExit a lot as we drove from home through Nevada, Utah, Idaho, and back on our family road trip, and I just used it a couple of weeks ago to find lunch during a four-hour drive through California’s Central Valley.

iExit

iExit organizes its listings of restaurants, coffee shops, gas stations, and other items of interest entirely around freeway exits—and tells you which side of the exit each establishment is on, and how far away from the off-ramp it is. The app automatically detects the road you’re on and which direction you’re going, and shows you what’s coming up. If you’re driving through sparse countryside, you can make decisions like if you want to stop for Subway in 20 miles or if you’re willing to wait an hour to get a better sandwich at Port of Subs. (When in Winnemucca, Nevada, visit the Port of Subs. That’s my single Winnemucca, Nevada travel tip.)

You can also set favorites in iExit. So on my phone, I’ve marked Starbucks, Subway, In N Out, Five Guys, and a few other stops that are acceptable to all members of my family. I can quickly toggle to view by favorites to see if any of our favorites are coming up soon, or if we’re out of luck.

I have to admit, I’m baffled why none of the mainstream Maps apps offer data structured around freeway exits, especially if they know what route you’re taking. It seems to be that it’s just a bit too different of a world view for those apps to truly understand. That’s fine—because there’s iExit, and it’s the app you want in your pocket if you know you need to stop for lunch in an hour or so, and want to know which exit is going to offer something to make every passenger in your car happy. Be sure to pack it for your summer road trip.


(Podcast) Upgrade #205: Monolithic Entertainment Console

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-06 19:18, modified at 19:19

It was a huge week: Apple broke a trillion dollars in market cap and Jason bought a new TV. And since money is on everyone’s minds, Myke and Jason take Apple’s $243B and go on a corporate shopping spree as a part of the ongoing Upgrade Summer of Fun.


(Sponsor) SaneBox

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-03 22:45, modified at 22:48

My thanks to Sanebox for sponsoring Six Colors this week. SaneBox is an intelligent email assistant that moves unimportant items out of your inbox, into a new folder, and summarizes them in a digest, where you can quickly bulk-process them. It works with any email provider, client or device. There’s also a quick-unsubscribe feature, a reminder feature for when someone hasn’t respond to your messages, and a snooze feature so you can send non-urgent emails away while you’re focused on more important matters.

The average SaneBox customer saves more than 12 hours per month month. New users can sign up for a $25 credit via this link.


3 small-but-important details from Apple’s Q4 2018 financials call (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-03 11:57

Apple’s quarterly financial calls are usually a time for big numbers: record revenue, billions in income, millions of iPhones sold, etc. But what I always find more interesting are the smaller tidbits that make their way through, like tiny rowboats at risk of being crushed by the monstrous rocks that are Apple’s blockbuster financial results.

This quarter was no different. There were more than a few breadcrumbs dropped by Apple CEO Tim Cook in-between fielding questions about gross margins and talking about tariffs, some of which zipped by so fast that they were all too easy to miss. I’ve picked out three that perked up my ears, along with the larger significance that I think they import.


(Podcast) Rebound 198: Troubleshooting with Doctors Moltz and Moren

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-02 14:41

It’s our quarterly show where we try to predict Apple financial results before the results happen, but don’t release the show until after they come out, and thus generally look a little foolish. FOR YOUR ENTERTAINMENT. Plus, Lex has a puzzling Safari bug, Dan compares notes on the Sonos One, and a secret about John is revealed after 198 episodes.


So you wanted an Eddy Award but we never gave you one...

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-01 22:44, modified on 2018-08-02 19:05

eddy
This guy.

The Eddy Award was once the Oscar of the Apple world. For a couple of decades, MacUser (and later Macworld) magazine gave actual, heavy statuettes out to winners in many categories every year. People loved getting them. We loved giving them out. I kept an extra one in my office for years at Macworld and it just might be sitting behind me right now.

If you’re in the market for one, a nice lady named Carolyn has one up for sale on eBay for $499 “or best offer.” She found it in a thrift shop in Portland, Oregon! We tried to figure out its back story and my best guess is that this was a Now Utilities Eddy given out in February 1993, but there are a lot of other possibilities, too. (The statue base doesn’t have anything on it—these were given out with engraved plates, but it has none—so there’s no way to trace its origins. Mysterious)

In any event, if you ever wanted an Oscar-like statue that’s holding a Mac SE above its head, engraved with the logo of the late, lamented MacUser magazine, make Carolyn an offer.

Update: It’s sold! To a good home.


(Podcast) Clockwise #252: I'm Not Alone in My Monsterdom

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-01 18:13

This week, on the 30-minute tech podcast that time never forgets, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests John Moltz and Allison Sheridan to discuss our file organization strategies (or lack thereof), whether it’s time to dive into the 3D printing pool, the tech accessories that impress us, and the portable batteries we carry. Plus, a bonus smattering of embarrassing podcast recording stories.


4 top takeaways from Apple's boringly brilliant record results (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-01 14:20, modified at 14:21

It’s gotten to the point where even some of my colleagues who write about Apple are bored by the company’s quarterly results. Granted, this is the good kind of boring—the best third-quarter results ever, led by overall revenue of $53.3 billion, a 17 percent growth rate. But it does seem like Apple does the same thing almost every quarter: growth, billions, the works. There’s not a lot of drama in being one of the most valuable companies in the world continuing to churn away at huge profits and product growth.

Still, I’m not going to call this boring. Every three months, Apple has to reveal things about itself that it would probably want to keep secret, and these disclosures can help us understand the company and its products better than we otherwise would. Here are the four most interesting things I gleaned from Tim Cook’s performance on his quarterly conference call with analysts.


Diving into the details of Apple's (boring?) record quarter

Permalink - Posted on 2018-08-01 00:58, modified at 23:07

The Apple financial numbers are out, and the company set a new record for its financial third—wait, where are you going? Don’t you want to hear the same old story about how Apple is a company that continues to generate billions in revenues and profits, quarter after quarter, and seemingly will do so for many years to come?

I know, even this kind of success can get boring, but I think if you look closer you might notice some interesting indications about where Apple’s product lines are going…

The iPhone: Remember “peak iPhone”?

The release of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus was so huge that Apple spent a year living it down when its follow-up sales couldn’t possibly match it. And yet here we are a few years later and iPhone sales have surpassed that peak. A lot of that has to do with the slow march of iPhone growth—without the iPhone 6 aberration the numbers show pretty clearly that these sales figures were inevitable.

Now, iPhone unit sales are still down from the days of the iPhone 6. What’s changed is that the average selling price of an iPhone is up—way up. That’s mostly thanks to the iPhone X, which has a record-breaking price tag that hasn’t seemed to matter one whit in terms of consumer acceptance. (And for those who don’t want to spend $1000 on an iPhone X, apparently the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus hits the spot.)

The rumors suggest that this fall Apple is going to make some more interesting tweaks to the iPhone product line. But at this point, would anyone bet against Apple succeeding at whatever they try? Ha ha ha! That’s a trick question! Of course someone will. That’s what keeps The Macalope in business. But they’ll probably be very obviously wrong, is what I’m saying. You can’t stop the iPhone, and you apparently can’t even hope to contain it. It rolls on.

The iPad: Meh

The math is pretty straightforward: Apple sold 11.6 million iPads, which is slightly more than they sold in the year-ago quarter, but iPad revenue was down 5 percent, which means the average selling price of an iPad dipped. This isn’t surprising, because the more pricey iPad Pro models are long in the tooth and the cheap iPad is relatively new. What it suggests is that the iPad sales price will rise once new iPad Pros arrive (presumably this fall), but in the meantime the release of the low-cost iPad is keeping things afloat.

When you eliminate seasonality, it’s starting to feel like the iPad is a remarkably stable product. Maybe Apple’s just going to keeps selling 44 million iPads a year. It’s not the heights of 2014 when it looked like that number was more like 74 million, but it’s still a pretty good market. And there’s nobody else even playing it when it comes to tablet devices.

The Mac: Guh

Mac sales were down 13 percent year over year, and revenue was down five percent. It’s understandable given the environment—the year-ago’s quarter saw new MacBook Pros being released in June, while this year they didn’t release until July, after Apple’s third quarter ended.

Apple keeps talking about new growth in the Mac in various markets and uses that seasonality as an excuse, but it’s been three straight quarters of sales and revenue flops. At what point do we say that Apple has a Mac problem? The optimist would probably answer that last year’s “Mac roundtable” was an indication that Apple realized it had made some poor Mac decisions, and that the new features in macOS Mojave are another sign of the company’s recommitment to the platform.

I hope so. But still, the Mac has currently replaced the iPad as the product line that makes me cringe every three months when sales figures are released. That’s not great.

Apple Watch: Good, I guess?

Apple doesn’t quote Apple Watch sales numbers, but speaks about them in relative terms—a trait that’s more common coming from one of Cook’s fellow titans of tech, Jeff Bezos. (Bezos is famous for putting up bar charts that lack any numbers, a phenomenon known as a “Bezos Chart”.)

In any event, during the conference call with analysts on Tuesday, Cook said the watch had “record June quarter performance, with growth in the mid-40-percent range… the Apple Watch has hit an air pocket and has gone to a whole different level.”

Is that how air pockets work? You hit them and then fly… upward?

The future is… Services?

For several years now Apple has been talking about how its Services revenue line is going to provide massive growth for the company, and they haven’t been wrong. The amalgamation of the App Store, Apple Music, AppleCare, and cloud services is growing faster than any other part of Apple. It’s the kind of thing that makes financial analysts very excited. And knowing that there’s more on the way—like a video streaming service—makes those analysts very happy.

As someone who’s interested in products, I find the focus on Services revenue to be a bit dispiriting. I get excited at the prospect of new products and seeing how consumers are accepting or rejecting products in the market. But the discussion of Services, especially in a financial context, is essentially a conversation about how Apple can grind more money out of every single person who uses an iPhone, iPad, and Mac. (At least the Other Products line, which is also growing rapidly, contains real products like AirPods and the HomePod and the Apple Watch.)

It’s not even that the individual products aren’t good—in point of fact, I’m a happy Apple Music user, I sync my photos with iCloud, and I’ll get in line to give Apple my money for the new video service when it arrives. But to me, in its soul Apple is a company that makes products—the amalgamation of hardware and software—and it will rise or fall based on its competency in those areas.

Apple needs to keep growing Services revenue because this is the world we live in. You’ve got to play that game, and if you had told me a decade ago how well Apple would seem to be doing at it, I wouldn’t have believed you. (To be fair, a huge portion of the Services line is the App Store itself, and that’s not just to Apple’s credit, but to the credit of everyone who sells apps.) But Services revenue is the add-on, not the core. Let’s never forget that—and hope Apple never does either.


This is Tim: Apple Q3 2018 financial call with analysts, transcribed

Permalink - Posted on 2018-07-31 21:15, modified at 22:43

Here’s a complete transcript of today’s Apple conference call with financial analysts.

Tim Cook: Today we’re proud to report our best June Quarter revenue and earnings ever, thanks to the strong performance of iPhone services and wearables. We generated 53.3 billion dollars in revenue, a new Q3 record. That’s an increase of 17 percent over last year’s results, making it our seventh consecutive quarter of accelerating growth, our fourth consecutive quarter of double digit growth, and our strongest rate of growth in the past 11 quarters. Our team generated record Q3 earnings per share of $2.34, an increase of 40 percent over last year. We are extremely proud of these results, and I’d like to share some highlights with you.

First, iPhone had a very strong quarter. Revenue was up 20 percent year over year, and our active install base grew by double digits driven by switchers, first-time smartphone buyers, and our existing customers, whose loyalty we greatly appreciate. iPhone X was the most popular iPhone in the quarter once again, with a customer satisfaction score of 98 percent according to 451 Research. Based on the latest data from IDC, iPhone grew faster than the global smartphone market, gaining share in many markets including the U.S., Greater China, Canada, Germany, Australia, Russia, Mexico, and the Middle East and Africa.

Second, we had a stellar quarter in Services, which generated all time record revenue of $9.5 billion, fueled in part by double-digit growth in our overall active installed base. We feel great about the momentum of our services business, and we’re on target to reach our goal of doubling our fiscal 2016 services revenue by 2020. Our record Services results were driven by strong performance in a number of areas, and I’d like to briefly mentioned just some of these.

Paid subscriptions from Apple and third parties have now surpassed 300 million, an increase of more than 60 percent in the past year alone. Revenue from subscriptions accounts for a significant and increasing percentage of our overall services business. What’s more, the number of apps offering subscriptions also continue to grow. There are almost 30,000 available in the App Store today.

The App Store turned 10 years old this month and we set a new June quarter revenue record. The App Store has exceeded our wildest expectations, igniting a cultural and economic phenomenon that has changed how people work, learn and play. Customers around the world are visiting the app store more often and downloading more apps than ever before. And based on third-party research estimates, the App Store generated nearly twice the revenue of Google play so far in 2018. The app economy is thriving and thanks to the App Store it’s generating jobs for tens of millions of people around the world. Our developers have earned over a hundred billion dollars from the App Store since its launch, and we couldn’t be more proud of them and what they’ve accomplished. We’re hearing lots of developer excitement around our upcoming OS releases which I’ll talk about more in a moment and can’t wait to see what they can come up with next.

We’ve experienced rapid growth in our App Store search ad service. And as we announced earlier this month, we are expanding our geographic coverage to Japan, South Korea, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain.

We’re also seeing strong growth in many of the other services as well. Just a few examples: Apple Music grew by over 50 percent on a year over year basis. AppleCare revenue grew at its highest rate in 18 quarters, partly due to our expanded distribution initiative. Cloud services revenue was also up over 50 percent year over year. Our communications services are experiencing record usage. We’ve hit all-time highs for both the number of monthly active users of Messages, and the number of FaceTime calls made, with growth accelerating from the March to June quarters. Siri requests have already exceeded 100 billion so far this fiscal year. And the number of articles read on Apple News more than doubled year over year. Apple Pay continues to expand with well over one billion transactions last quarter, triple the amount from just a year ago, with growth accelerating for the March quarter. To put that tremendous growth into perspective, this past quarter we completed more total transactions than great companies like Square, and more mobile transactions than PayPal.

Apple Pay is now live in 24 markets worldwide with over 4900 bank partners, and we look forward to adding Germany later this year. We’re excited to share that in the U.S., eBay is beginning to enable its sellers to accept Apple Pay, and CVS Pharmacy and 7-Eleven will roll out Apple Pay acceptance in locations nationwide this fall.

Transit is another important area of growth, and Apple Pay can be used with iPhone and Apple Watch to quickly and conveniently ride public transit in 12 metropolitan areas. Apple Pay Cash, our, peer to peer payment service, is already serving millions of customers across the U.S. less than eight moths following its launch.

Our third highlight of the quarter is the outstanding results in wearables, which comprises Apple Watch, AirPods, and Beats, and was up over 60 percent year over year, with growth accelerating from the March quarter. Our wearables revenue exceeded 10 billion dollars over the last four quarters, a truly remarkable accomplishment for a set of products that has only been in the market for a few years. Apple Watch delivered record June quarter performance, with growth in the mid 40 percent range. And we’re thrilled to see so many customers enjoying AirPods. It reminds me of the early days of iPod, when I started noticing white ear buds everywhere I went.

A number of other notable events in the quarter: We expanded distribution of HomePod to three additional markets, and we added new immersive listing features, with support for HomePod stereo pairs and a new multi-room audio system. In June, we hosted an extremely successful developers conference that previewed many major advances coming this fall to our four operating systems, iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS. Developer and customer reaction has been very positive, and we have over four million users participating in our new OS beta programs. Starting with iOS 12, Siri will take a major step forward with Siri Shortcuts, which deliver a new, much faster way to get things done and allow any app to work with Siri. We believe this will make Siri even more useful and significantly expand its adoption. We’ve also designed performance improvements across iOS 12, to make everyday tasks faster and more responsive. Camera launches up to 70 percent faster. The keyboard appears up to 50 percent faster. And apps can launch up to twice as fast.

We’ve always been about empowering users to get the most from our products, but not about spending all of their time using them. And so we’re adding tools to iOS 12 to help our customers understand and take control of the time both they and their families spend interacting with their iOS devices. Activity reports will provide information on the amount and nature of time spent on iPhones and iPads, and Screen Time will enable parents to monitor and limit their children’s activity from their own iOS devices using Family Sharing in iCloud.

Developers will be able to build even more intelligent apps with just a few lines of code using the power of machine learning with CoreML to and CreateML. We’ve also included our third release of ARKit in only one year. With ARKit 2, iOS 12 will provide an even more powerful platform to make dynamic AR apps, integrating shared and persistent AR experiences, object detection and image tracking. We believe AR can enable profound experiences, and Apple is uniquely positioned to provide the best AR experience because of the seamless integration of our hardware and software.

The new capabilities of ARKit 2 will build on the potential of the thousands of AR apps already available in the App Store that are changing the way iPhone and iPad users see and experience the world.

Turning to Mac, we want to empower our developers to bring their innovative apps from the iOS ecosystem to the Mac with minimal effort. Though iOS and Mac OS are different, they’ve shared common foundations from the very beginning. So we’ve taken key frameworks from iOS and adapted them to specific Mac behaviors like using a mouse or trackpad, resizing windows, copy and paste, and drag and drop. We started with some of our own apps, so this fall News, Stocks, Voice Memos, and Home will be available on the Mac for the first time with macOS Mojave. And we’ll be bringing these great new tools to our developers next year. We believe this will dramatically broaden the ecosystem to benefit all Mac users, creating even more great reasons to choose Mac. Also this fall, the Mac App Store is getting a full redesign with rich editorial content to help customers discover great Mac apps from our developers.

We believe privacy is one of the most important issues of the 21st century and we’re always working to make our products more private and more secure for our users. As we announced at WWDC, beginning this fall Safari will prevent share buttons and comment widgets on web pages from tracking users without their permission. Safari already protects personal data as users browse the web so they won’t be retargeted by ads.

For Apple Watch, users will see a significant expansion of features and functionality in watchOS 5. Apple Watch will become an even stronger companion for fitness, communication, and quick access to information, with features including new workouts, activity-sharing competitions, auto-workout detection, advanced running features, walkie talkie, podcast, and third-party apps on the Siri watch face.

For Apple TV, we’ve seen major growth in sales since the introduction of Apple TV 4K last fall, as video providers around the world choose Apple TV 4K to deliver their subscription services. Later this year, Charter Communications will begin offering Apple TV 4K to its customers in nearly 50 million U.S. households, providing access to live channels and tens of thousands of on-demand programs via the Spectrum TV app on Apple TV 4K, iPhone, and iPad. And tvOS will take the cinematic experience of Apple TV 4K to the next level this fall with support for Dolby Atmos Audio and new features to easily find popular shows and movies. Apple TV 4K already offers customers the largest collection of 4K HDR movies, and this fall iTunes will be the home to the largest collection of Dolby Atmos supported movies anywhere.

I’m proud that our team’s hard work has an impact even beyond these innovative industry-leading products and services. We are always working to leave the world better than we found it, and as part of our commitment to address climate change and increase the use of renewable energy in our supply chain, we recently announced a first-of-its-kind investment fund in China. Initially, ten suppliers will join us in investing nearly 300 million dollars over the next four years into the China Clean Energy Fund. The fund will invest in and develop clean energy projects totaling more than 1 gigawatt of renewable energy in China, the equivalent of powering nearly one million homes.

We’re seeing great momentum in our Everyone Can Code and Everyone Can Create initiatives. More than 5000 schools and community colleges are now teaching Everyone Can Code and more than 350 schools have committed to incorporating Everyone Can Create into their curricula for the upcoming school year. Coding skills are opening doors for students and job seekers around the world, as tremendous growth in the app economy creates opportunity everywhere we look. We’re also teaming up with leading educators for blind and deaf communities across the United States, who will start teaching Everyone Can Code this fall.

Looking ahead, we couldn’t be more excited about the products and services in our pipeline, as well as limitless applications for augmented reality and machine-learning technology. We’re working with key partners in the enterprise to change the way work gets done with iOS and Mac. We’re welcoming communities and offering learning opportunities at our retail locations through hundreds of thousands of Today at Apple sessions each quarter. We’re expanding our reach into emerging markets and seeing strong double-digit growth in revenue. And we’re making great progress toward our goal of significantly expanding our services business.

And now for more details on the record June quarter results, I’d like to turn the call over to Luca.

Luca Maestri: Thank you Tim. Good afternoon everyone. We are very pleased to report the financial results of our best June quarter ever.

As we have done in every quarter this fiscal year, we set new quarterly records for both revenue and earnings per share, with revenue up 17 percent year over year, and EPS up 40 percent.

We generated $53.3 billion of revenue, with year over year growth in all of our geographic segments, and new June Quarter records in the Americas, Europe, Japan, and rest of Asia Pacific. We grew in each of our top 15 markets, with especially strong performance in the U.S., Hong Kong, Russia, Mexico, the Middle East, and Africa, all places where revenue was up by more than 20 percent. Gross margin was 38.3 percent, flat sequentially as cost improvements and foreign exchange offset the seasonal loss of leverage. Net income was $11.5 billion, up 2.8 billion or 32 percent over last year, and it was also a new June quarter record. Diluted earnings per share were $2.34, up 40 percent and also a new record for the June quarter. And cash flow from operations was very strong at 14.5 billion. iPhone revenue grew 20 percent year over year, with iPhone ASP increasing to 724 dollars from 606 dollars a year ago, driven by the strong performance of iPhone X, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus across the world.

During the quarter we sold forty one point three million iPhones, with double-digit unit growth in several markets, including the U.S., Canada, Germany, Switzerland, Mexico, Hong Kong, Russia, the Middle East, and Africa.

Our performance from a customer-demand standpoint was stronger than our reported results, as we reduced iPhone channel inventory by three and a half million units during the quarter. We exited the June Quarter towards the lower end of our target range of five to seven weeks of iPhone channel inventory.

Customer satisfaction with iPhone continues to be outstanding and is the highest in the industry. The latest survey of U.S. consumers from 451 Research indicates that across all iPhone models, customer satisfaction was 96 percent. And combining iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and iPhone X, it was even higher at 98 percent. And among business buyers who plan to purchase smartphones in the September quarter, 81 percent plan to purchase iPhones, up three points from the last survey.

Turning to Services, we had our best results ever, with all-time record revenue of 9.5 billion dollars. Services revenue included a favorable 236 million one-time item in connection with the final resolution of various lawsuits. Excluding these amounts, Services revenue was still an all-time record, and the underlying growth rate of our services business was a terrific 28 percent over last year. We generated double-digit Services growth in all our geographic segments and the App Store, AppleCare, Apple Music, cloud services, and Apple Pay all set new June Quarter records.

Our Other product category also set a new record for the June quarter with revenue of over 3.7 billion. That’s up 37 percent from last year. great momentum for both Apple Watch and AirPods. Apple Watch continues to be the best-selling smartwatch by a wide margin, and units and revenue grew dramatically during the quarter. AirPods continue to be a runaway success, and we’ve been selling them as fast as we can make them since their launch a year and a half ago.

Next I’d like to talk about the Mac. We were very happy to see double-digit year-over-year growth in our active installed base of Macs, to a new all time high with nearly 60 percent of purchases during the quarter coming from customers who are new to Mac. Our year-over-year sales performance was impacted by the different timing of the MacBook Pro launch, which did not occur until early Q4 this year, as opposed to June last year, with a subsequent channel fill during the June quarter. Even with the difficult launch comparison, we saw great momentum in many emerging markets, with growth well into double digits, and we established new June Quarter records for Mac sales in India, Turkey, Chile, and Central and Eastern Europe.

iPad unit sales grew for the fifth consecutive quarter, and we gained significant share of the global tablet market based on the latest estimates from IDC. We recorded double-digit iPad unit growth in both our Greater China and Rest of Asia Pacific segments, with a new June quarter record for iPad sales in mainland China. Almost half of iPad purchases in the quarter were by customers new to iPad, and our active installed base of iPads reached a new all-time high. Our overall performance compared to last year was impacted by the introduction of new iPad Pro models in June of last year, which resulted in both a different mix with higher ASPs and channel fill a year ago. NPD indicates that iPad has 60 percent share of the U.S. tablet market in the June Quarter, up from 51 percent share a year ago. And the most recent consumer survey from 451 Research measured iPad customer satisfaction ratings of 94 percent, and among business customers who plan to purchase tablets in the September Quarter, 75 percent plan to purchase iPads.

We continue to make great strides with enterprise customers across multiple industries. For example, financial services institutions are increasingly using iPads to deploy digital signature solutions for customer consent, compliance requirements, new account openings, and services transactions. In the railway industry, businesses around the world are using iPhone and iPad to support operations, training, passenger engagement, and maintenance activities. And leading local automotive companies are deploying iPads in dealerships for sales enablement and end-to-end customer service management, and are choosing iPhone as the standard mobile device for their employees around the world. More and more companies are giving their teams a choice when it comes to the devices they use at work, and enterprises including SalesForce and Capital One are deploying Macs based on employee preference. In fact, at SalesForce, of the majority of their 35,000 employees are using Macs. And companies tell us that Mac has been instrumental in helping them attract and retain talent, while providing strong security, streamlined deployment workflow, and significantly lower total cost of ownership.

We’re also seeing great interest in Business Chat, our powerful new way for organizations to connect with customers. Business Chat lets customers get answers to questions, resolve issues, and complete transactions directly from within Messages by starting a conversation on their iPhone or iPad, and even continue that conversation on their Mac or Apple Watch. Dish Network is making Business Chat available to customers across the U.S. to enhance their customer service experience for pay TV. Customers can instantly reach a live agent with their questions, make account changes, schedule an appointment, or order a pay per view movie or sporting event, all without leaving the messages conversation. And Citizens Bank Park, home of the Philadelphia Phillies, is testing business chat with Aramark to handle beverage orders during games. Fans simply use that iPhone camera to scan a QR code on the back of their seats, taking them directly to a Business Chat conversation in messages. From there, they can order drinks, pay quickly and securely with Apple Pay, and have them delivered directly to their seats without missing a moment of on-field play.

Our retail and online stores had a great quarter thanks to very strong growth from iPhone, AirPods, and Apple Watch, and the expansion of HomePod to Canada, France, and Germany. Our stores hosted more than 250,000 of our very successful Today at Apple sessions. We continue to add content across all Today at Apple topics, including popular new sessions on music and photography. We opened our fiftieth retail store in Greater China during the quarter, and we just opened a beautiful new store in Milan this month, bringing the number of stores located outside the U.S. to 46 percent of the total.

Let me now turn to our cash position. We ended the quarter with $243.7 billion in cash plus marketable securities. We retired six billion dollars of debt during the quarter, leaving us with $102.6 billion in term debt and 12 billion in commercial paper outstanding, for a net cash position of 129.1 billion dollars.

As we explained in February, we plan to reach a net cash neutral position over time. We returned almost 25 billion dollars to investors during the quarter, including 3.7 billion in dividends and equivalents. We repurchased $20 billion worth of Apple shares, of which 10 billion related to completion of our previous $210 billion program, and $10 billion to the beginning of the new $100 billion authorization we announced three months ago, for a total of 112.8 million shares repurchased through open market transactions during the quarter.

As we move ahead into the September 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 60 and 62 billion dollars. As you will recall, our September quarter results last year included a one-time favorable adjustment of $640 million to our services revenue. Taking that adjustment into account, our revenue guidance implies year-over-year growth of about 16 to 19 percent. We expect gross margin to be between 38 and 38.5 percent. We expect OpEx to be between 7 billion and 150 million and 8 billion and 50 million. We expect OI&E about 300 million, and we expect the tax rate to be about 15 percent before discrete items.

Also today our Board of Directors has declared a cash dividend of 73 cents per share of common stock payable on August 16, 2018 to shareholders of record as of August 13, 2018. With that, I’d like to open the call to questions.

Katy Huberty, Morgan Stanley: Thank you and congrats on the quarter. Tim, you’re on track to hit your services revenue target even earlier than planned. So how are you thinking about the next legs of services growth as you move into the next three to five years? And for you, Luca NAND prices are falling this year, Services mix is rising, those should both positively influence gross margins and yet we’re seeing gross margin sort of hanging out here at 38 percent. What are the offsetting headwinds and is it possible that we could see the tailwinds pick to overpower those headwinds in the next couple of quarters and see gross margins drift higher.

Tim: Katie thanks for your questions, it’s Tim. On the on the Services side, we’re thrilled with the results. They were very broad based. We had double-digit services growth in all of the geographic segments, and the App Store, AppleCare, Apple Music, cloud services, Apple Pay all set new June quarter records, and of course subscriptions have now passed 300 million as I had mentioned before. And so we couldn’t be happier with how things are going. In terms of the the next leg of this, you know, given the momentum that we’re seeing across the board, we feel great about our current services. But obviously we’re also thrilled about our pipeline that has some new services in it as well. And so with the combination of these, we feel great about hitting our objective and maybe even doing a little better.

Luca: Katy, for margins. Let me tell you about the puts and takes for the June quarter, then I’ll talk about the guidance for Q4 and make some general observations for the future.

Starting with with the June quarter, typically we see a decline in gross margin going from the March quarter to the June quarter. Last year, we were down 40 BPS. Two years ago we were down 140 BPS. This year, we were able to keep GM flat sequentially. During the quarter we always have some loss of leverage because of our typical seasonality. This year we were able to offset that with some cost improvements and also we had some favorability in foreign exchange on a sequential basis. Unfortunately, as you know the, U.S. dollar has already appreciated again recently. So we do not expect to see that favorability to repeat during the September quarter. Those are the puts and takes for June and we were very happy to see gross margin sequentially flat for June.

For September, we’re also guiding about flat sequentially at the midpoint. As you know, we typically have what we called product transition costs during the September quarter, and this year we also have about 30 BPS of headwind from foreign exchange, again because the dollar has appreciated recently. We expect those two factors to be offset by positive leverage because you’ve seen the the revenue guidance that we provided and the mix to services that you’ve actually mentioned during your question. So we feel pretty good about the guidance for for the fourth quarter.

Looking forward, you know we don’t provide guidance beyond the current quarter, but I think you know we have a pretty good record over the last several years to make good business decisions, balancing units, revenue, and margins. As you know, foreign exchange has been a very significant headwind over the last three-plus years, but we’ve been able to manage that.

On the memory front, it is true that prices are starting to decline. It has been a significant headwind for the last 12, 18 months, and still in the June quarter was a negative. We believe that we’re going to start seeing some improvement from here on.

Shannon Cross, Cross Research: Tim can you talk a bit about trends within your iPhone sales? ASPs were above expectations, and that’s clearly better than some of the comments from some of your competitors. Now that you’ve had about nine months of experience with a full high-end fully featured phone, can you talk a bit about what you think customers want, what the elasticity of demand is, and how you’re sort of thinking about your competitive position.

Tim: Shannon, we feel great about the results on iPhone, up 20 percent. And if you look for the cycle—by the cycle I mean Q1, Q2 and Q3—we’ve had on an average weekly basis, growth in units of sort of mid-single digit and ASP growth of double digit. And so if you look at iPhone X in particular, it’s the most innovative smartphone on the market. We priced it at a level that represented the value of it. And we could not be happier that it has been the top-selling iPhone since the launch. And so we feel terrific about iPhone X. If you look at the sort of the the top of our line together, and by that I mean the iPhone X, the 8, and the 8 Plus, they are growing very nicely as you can probably tell from from looking at the ASP, and we couldn’t be happier with how that’s gone. And so I think in this cycle we’ve learned that customers want innovative products, and we sort of already knew that in other cycles, and other points and times. But it just puts an exclamation point by that, I believe, looking at the results.

At the unit level, the iPhone SE had a difficult comp to the year-ago quarter, when we changed some of the memory configurations. If you look at it on a geographic basis, the top three selling phones in urban China were iPhone, where iPhone X was number one and has been for a couple of quarters, and iPhones make up three of the top five smartphones in the U.S., UK and Japan. And so you know, it’s difficult sometimes to get a read over exactly what’s happening in the market. But given the industry numbers that we’ve seen, it’s clear that we picked up global market share and picked up market share in several countries, not only iPhone, but iPad as well.

Shannon Cross, Cross Research: Thank you. And then can you talk a bit about Greater China, up 19 percent year over year during the quarter, I believe. Obviously iPhone doing well, but some concern that maybe some of what’s going on in the trade world might have impacted, doesn’t seem like that. So I’m just curious as to what what you’re seeing in China and and how you’re thinking about it as you look forward.

Tim: Yes it’s a good question. Thank you. This is the fourth consecutive quarter that we’ve had double-digit growth in Greater China. I mentioned how iPhone X and the sort of the iPhones are selling. We did pick up share in iPhone and iPad. But if you look more holistically at our complete line, we had double digit growth from Services to iPad to iPhone and to our Other Product category which, the Watch did extremely well. And so there are there are lots of good things happening there.

In terms of the the tariffs themselves and maybe I could sort of take a step back as I’m sure that some people have questions on this and, you know, our view on tariffs is that they show up as a tax on the consumer and wind up resulting in lower economic growth. And sometimes can bring about significant risk of unintended consequences. That said, the trade relationships and agreements that the U.S. has between between the U.S. and other major economies are very complex, and it’s clear that several are in need of modernizing. But we think that in the vast majority of situations that tariffs are not the approach to doing that. And so we’re sort of encouraging dialogue and so forth. In terms of the the tariffs that have been imposed or have exited the comment period, I think there’s one that’s exiting today, there have been three of those, and maybe I could walk through those briefly just to make sure everybody’s on the same page.

The first was the the U.S. imposed a tariff on steel and aluminum that was many, many different countries that started I believe at the beginning of June. There have been two other tariffs that have totalled about 50 billion dollars of goods from China that have either been implemented or exiting the comment period in this month. I think the latest one exits today. If you look at those three tariffs, none of our products were directly affected by the tariffs. There is a fourth tariff which includes goods valued at $200 billion, also focused on goods that are imported from China. That one is out for public comment, probably like everyone else we’re evaluating that one, and we’ll be sharing our views of it with the administration and so forth before the comment period for that one ends. It’s actually a tedious process in going through it, because you not only have to analyze the revenue products, which are a bit more straightforward to analyze, but you also have to analyze the purchases that you’re making through other companies that are not related to revenue. Maybe they’re related to data centers, and this sort of thing. And so we’re going through that now and we’ll be sharing our results later on those and feeding back public comment.

Of course, the risk associated with more of a macro economic issue such as an economic slowdown in one or more countries or currency fluctuations that are related to tariffs, is very difficult to quantify. And we’re not even trying to quantify that, to be clear about it.

All of this said, we’re optimistic, as I’ve been the whole time, that this will get sorted out. Because there’s an inescapable mutuality between the U.S. and China that sort of serves as a magnet to bring both countries together. Each country can only prosper if the other does, and of course the world needs both the U.S. and China to prosper for the world to do well. You know, that said, I can’t predict the future. But I am optimistic that the countries will get through this, and we are hoping that calm heads prevail.

Brian White, Monness: Tim, I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the multi-year partnership with Oprah Winfrey and what that says about your original content strategy, and also Apple Music if you can give us a little more color or is there an update maybe around paid subscribers or total subscribers around Apple Music and how you feel that’s rolled out.

Tim: We’re very excited to work with Oprah. We think that her incomparable ability and talent to connect with audiences around the world, that there’s no match. And we think that we can do some great in original content together, and so we could not be happier in working with Oprah. As you know we we hired two highly respected television executives last year and they have been here now for several months and have been working on a project that we’re not really ready to share all the details of it yet, but I couldn’t be more excited about what’s going on there, and we’ve got great talent in the area that we’ve sourced from different places and feel really good about what what we will eventually offer.

In terms of the key catalyst in the changes, cord cutting in our view is only going to accelerate and probably accelerate at a much faster rate than than is widely thought. We’re seeing the things that we have on the periphery of this, like Apple TV units and revenue, grew by a very strong double digits in Q3. As I mentioned in my opening comments, we’re seeing different providers pick up the Apple TV and use it as their box to go to market with their subscription service. There are, within the 300 million plus paid subscriptions, some of these are third-party video subscriptions, and we see the growth that is going on there. It’s like 100 percent year over year. And so all the forcing functions here from the outside all point to dramatic changes speeding up in the content industry. And so we’re really happy to to be work on something but just not ready to talk about it in depth today.

In terms of Apple Music, we’re well over 50 million listeners now when you add our paid subscribers and the folks in the trial. And so we’re moving along at a very very good rate. It appears to us, and what we’ve been told, is that we took the leadership position in North America during the quarter and we had the leadership position in Japan and so in some of the markets that we’ve been in for a long period of time, we’re doing quite well. But really the key thing in music is not the competition between companies that are providing music, the real challenge is to to grow the market. Because if you add everyone up that’s providing subscription music today or streaming music, outside of China it’s less than 200 million probably around the world. And so it does seem to me there’s an extraordinary opportunity in that business to grow the market well, and I think if we put our emphasis there, which we are doing, we’ll be a beneficiary of that as other people will as well. But I like where we are. Our revenues on Apple Music grew over 50 percent, as I’d mentioned earlier, during the quarter. And so, some really really strong results.

Toni Sacconaghi, Bernstein: Luca, I’m wondering as we think about modeling Q4, iPhone ASP’s are typically up sequentially about 2 to 4 percent, sort of low single digits. Perhaps you can help us think through how we should be thinking about Q4. I know you provided some commentary last quarter on how we should be thinking about Q3 ASPs.

Luca: Toni, as you know, we do not provide guidance for either units or ASPs for any product category, but of course you know we provide a guidance on revenue, and the guidance range implies growth of 16 to 19 percent. We expect the growth to come from strong growth from iPhone, from Services, and from wearables, which has been a bit of our pattern during the course of the year. On iPhone ASP the only thing that I would point out is that obviously we are exiting the June Quarter at a significantly higher level than in the past. And so as we move into the September quarter it’s important to keep in mind the type of revenue growth that we’ve implied in our guidance.

Toni Sacconaghi, Bernstein: Tim, I was wondering if you could just comment a little bit about the health of the smartphone market. Apple’s iPhone units have been relatively flat for four years, and I think you’ve probably been a share gainer during the period, which would suggest at least at the high end a market that is perhaps flat to down. And I’m wondering if you can comment on whether you believe that, and what you think might be happening with replacement cycles. And specifically also what impact if any you’ve seen from wider availability and less expensive replacement batteries for iPhone.

Tim: I think the smartphone market is very healthy. I think it’s actually the best market in the world to be in for someone that is in the business that we’re in. It’s an enormous sized market, and from our point of view whether it grows 1 or 2 percent or 5 or 6 percent or 10 percent or shrinks 1 or 2 percent, it’s a great market, because it’s just huge. And so that’s kind of the way that I view that. iPhone revenues are up 20 percent for the quarter over last year. We’re really pleased with that. And if you look at the sort of the cycle which I’ll define as Q1 Q2 Q3 for ease, you’ll see that we’ve grown like mid-single digits on an average weekly sales point of view. And of course double digit on ASP. And so I think it’s really healthy.

In terms of replacement cycles, as I’ve mentioned I think on a previous call, some replacement cycles are lengthening. I think that the major catalyst for that was probably the subsidy plans becoming a much smaller percentage of total sales around the world than they were at one time. And so I think some are lengthening, but I think for us the the thing that we always have to do is come out with a really great innovative product. And I think that iPhone X shows that when you deliver a great innovative product, there’s enough people there that would like that, and it can be a really good business. And so that’s how I look at that.

In terms of the our installed base, which is something very important for us, as it is one of the key drivers of services, our active installed based on iPhone grew double digits over last year during the quarter. And so we’re thrilled with that, and you can you can see that carrying through to the services line and the growth that we had there.

In terms of batteries, we have never done an analysis internally about how many people decided to get a lower priced battery than buy another phone, because it was never about that for us. It was always about doing something great for the user, and I think if you treat the users and the customers well, then you have a good business over time, and that’s how we look at that.

Laura Martin, Needham: I’d like to focus on product road map and strategy. There is a war going on for the connected home on the Internet of Things. And with two products, the HomePod and Apple TV in the home, my question is: Strategically, how do you feel about the importance of being in the home, and whether it threatens your dominance outside the home with your core business in the mobile devices, if you sort of lose that battle. I’m just trying to figure out strategically when you think about where the puck’s going, how important is it for you to have a beachhead in the home as well as out of home.

Tim: I think the home business, Laura, is bigger than the HomePod and Apple TV. They’re both imported products, clearly, but everybody has their iPhone at home as well, and everybody has their Mac at home, and everyone has their iPad at home. And so in terms of the Siri access points, as you can tell from the hundred billion number I quoted in the script, there is an extraordinary amount of usage of these products that are used to perform home-related functions. You know, I do that every day with controlling all my home automation, and so on and so forth. Part of that is on HomePod, but part of it is with with the Apple Watch and the iPhone and the iPad. And so I think home is important. Home is important, work is important. The movement between the two are important. Health is important. So the smartphone has become the repository that goes across the whole of your life. Not something that is just meant for a portion of it. And so I think all of those are important. And we’re focused on all of them.

Laura Martin, Needham: Yeah, sort of. I mean, I’ll watch your product roadmap and be able to tell what the answer is. The thing I get in fights with investors about the most is this, and I’d love your insight on this: I love the expansion of the new products. The question I have is, are they actually on-ramps into the Apple ecosystem, the Beats, the Watch, the AirPods, subscriptions. Are they on-ramps into the ecosystem, or is the on-ramp to the ecosystem the iPhone, and then these new products add revenue per member once you get somebody into the ecosystem via the iPhone.

Tim: A lot of people that that buy Apple products buy for the whole ecosystem, even though they might not currently use all the different products. And so the way that I think about those products are they’re products within the ecosystem itself, and AirPods have really gone through the roof, and the Apple Watch has hit an air pocket and has gone to a whole different level, as I mentioned earlier with our our overall wearables revenue. And so in my view they are a core part of the ecosystem.

Laura Martin, Needham: Do they attract a new person to the ecosystem. Or does the person have to have an iPhone first?

Tim: But on your point, though, it is clear from communications I’ve had with users, that some of them were attracted to iPhone because of the Apple Watch. And so the Apple Watch led them to the iPhone. The reverse of that is also true, is that somebody got the iPhone and then decided, you know, I really want something to coach me in fitness and to curate some of the communications and so forth, like the Watch does so well. And so it’s not always a linear path. I see these things as being somewhat fluid and different for each user.

Laura Martin, Needham: So they’re complimentary and self reinforcing. All right, that makes sense.

Tim: Exactly right. Thank you for the question.

[end of call]


Apple results: $53.3B revenue sets a fiscal Q3 record

Permalink - Posted on 2018-07-31 20:22, modified at 22:30

Apple announced the results of its third financial quarter of 2018 on Tuesday, and it was a record for a June quarter, with revenue of $53.3 billion, up 17 percent from the same quarter in 2017. The company also provided guidance that it will generate between $60B and $62B in revenue next quarter.

This post has a bunch of charts! You can also read our complete transcript of Apple’s conference call with analysts today.


Applications Folder: TunnelBlick

Permalink - Posted on 2018-07-30 20:31, modified at 20:35

[Applications Folder is a column where we pick an obscure app in our Mac’s Applications folder, or somewhere on our iOS devices, and talk about why we use it. It appears in the monthly newsletter that goes to all Six Colors members. This post appeared in the April 2018 newsletter.]

It may have been well over a decade since I was last employed as a technology professional, but one of the ways I like to keep my hand in is by running my own Linux server, which I host over at Linode. (Full disclosure: Linode does regularly sponsor my podcast Clockwise, but we don’t get any special deals beyond what we offer to all listeners of the show.)

I enjoy the challenge of trying to navigate the arcane command line and install and configure various services that I think might be handy to have access to. One of the first attempts I made was setting up a VPN server, which I installed with the help of one of Linode’s handy guides. But once I got over the hurdle of setting it all up, I ran into an issue closer to home: macOS’s built-in VPN client doesn’t support the server that I’d used, OpenVPN.

Fortunately, there’s an alternative in the form of the free open-source VPN client Tunnelblick, which is designed for use with OpenVPN. Like the Mac’s built-in VPN features, Tunnelblick presents as a menu bar icon where you can connect or disconnect from your VPN.

While it may not be the most user friendly software (in particular, there’s a conflict with High Sierra that requires an annoying workaround, once you get Tunnelblick up and running, it works as smoothly as the Mac’s own VPN client, and it has a few extra features that in some cases make it preferable. For one, it lets you quickly check your external IP in the menu bar, to ensure that traffic is going through your encrypted connection. To do that with macOS’s built-in VPN client, you generally need to visit a website or use another utility.

Look, attractive Tunnelblick isn’t. And it has its own shortcomings—for example, I notice that it only seems to check for updates on a restart, and I don’t restart my Macs very often, so I’m perennially a version or two behind. Plus, when configurations go awry, it can take a bit of tweaking to get things working again. But it gets the job done, and it mostly does so without getting in the way. Setting up your own VPN server requires more than a little bit of know-how, and it’s not for the faint of heart. But having gotten that far, I’m at least glad that it wasn’t all for nothing.


(Podcast) Upgrade #204: Tap-to-Click Truther

Permalink - Posted on 2018-07-30 19:25

Myke’s back from his honeymoon, and the Summer of Fun continues as we discuss our dream iOS devices, YouTube’s attempt to get into premium streaming, Adobe bringing Photoshop to the iPad, and the MacBook Pro performance scandal that turned out to be a minor bug.


RSS Sponsor: SaneBox

Permalink - Posted on 2018-07-30 18:40

We’ve partnered up with Six Colors to bring you an exclusive $25 credit for new users. Just sign up through this link.

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Wish List: Expanded Tapbacks

Permalink - Posted on 2018-07-30 14:08

When Apple decided in 2016 to substantially revamp messages, it added a ton of features, including iMessage apps, screen effects, and stickers. For me, a lot of those features were a novelty that I tried a few times and discarded (or use every once in a while), but one feature has, to my surprise, persisted in its usefulness: tapbacks.

Maybe it’s because I spend so much time in Slack, where reaction emoji are a way of life, but it’s clear that habit has jumped to Messages. Being able to give a thumbs up or a laugh or a heart to a message sometimes obviates the need to actually type out a response that can just as easily be said with an icon. For all that they stand out, they’re also surprisingly subtle.

But the simplicity of tapbacks is also a source of frustration. I find myself wishing that, as in Slack, I could bestow a larger variety of reactions than the half dozen that Apple makes available. Sure, there’s a broad elegance to the options, designed to cover the most common reactions to a message, but sometimes you just want to get a little more specific.

It would be great if Apple would allow the adding of any emoji as a tapback. Perhaps simply with the inclusion of an “Other…” option once you bring up the tapback popover, which would in turn summon the emoji picker.

If you haven’t tried out tapbacks, I highly recommend giving them a try—they can seem a bit cheesy at first, but they’re actually a really handy tool. And, unlike iMessage apps, if you don’t want to use them, they don’t eat up valuable onscreen real estate. They’re also one of the few Messages features that’s supported equally well on iOS and the Mac, which is almost enough to recommend them in my book.


Episode IX cast announced!

Permalink - Posted on 2018-07-27 20:52

Friday afternoon is usually the time one reserves for bad news, so it’s a strange time to announce the cast of Episode IX, but there we are. There are a couple notable things in here, so if you’re avoiding spoilers, maybe it’s time to stop reading right now.

First of all, I’m delighted to get the official confirmation that John Williams is returning to score Episode IX. He’d always been expected to finish out the main sequence of movies and we’ve already had Michael Giacchino and John Powell adroitly step in on the anthology films. Williams’s themes will be indelibly part of Star Wars forever, regardless of whether or not he’s writing the scores. I hope he maybe contributes a few more themes to the rest of the universe, as he did with Solo.

The main additions are veteran British actor Richard E. Grant and relative newcomer Naomi Ackie, which both seem very positive; looking forward to seeing who they’re playing.

On to the returning cast. Billy Dee Williams’s appearance as Lando had already been leaked; I’m delighted to see him back, though I’m curious to see how much screen time he ends up getting. The surprises are, of course, Mark Hamill (though come on: how could he not show up as a Force ghost?) and…Carrie Fisher, for who they’re using unreleased footage from The Force Awakens. JJ Abrams says in the release that they were never going to recast or use a CG character, but you can bet there will be some CGI involved in translating Fisher’s scenes; otherwise, it would be pretty limiting.

I’m jazzed for Episode IX. We’ve got the longest wait for a Star Wars film ahead of us since Episode VII came out—maybe that will help build anticipation rather than potentially depressing it as seemed to happen with Solo.


Looking forward to the next Apple Watch (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2018-07-27 11:26, modified on 2018-08-24 23:22

For the last few weeks, I’ve moved up in the world: Thanks to the generosity of my friend and colleague Jason Snell, I’ve been rocking a Series 2 Apple Watch (I know: be still your beating heart), finally replacing my ancient Series 0, aka first-generation, model.

It’s been fascinating in that time to not only evaluate what has changed between those two models of the Watch, but also what hasn’t changed. Some of it is about the Watch, yes, but a lot of it is also about how my usage of the Watch has evolved in the years since its release.

And, above all, it’s gotten me excited for what I expect to be this fall’s release of a new Apple Watch, because I’m hoping that this will be the year that I’m convinced to go out and buy a brand new Watch for the first time.


(Podcast) Download #64: A Perfect Storm of Outrage

Permalink - Posted on 2018-07-26 21:44, modified at 21:45

Apple’s much-criticized MacBook Pro weathers a weeklong PR crisis; Google makes money but struggles with its identity; and Facebook continues to have a really bad year.


(Podcast) Rebound 197: 20 Minutes From Now

Permalink - Posted on 2018-07-26 19:47, modified at 21:02

It’s really a good thing that we spent a lot of time this week talking about the MacBook Pro throttling issue and then predicted that news would break about 20 minutes after we finished the show. (Oh my god, we’re psychic!) Good news is we spend the rest of the time discussing Twitter changes, Sonos losing lock screen control, and No Man’s Sky’s latest update.


Amazon opens up Echo Spatial Perception to all Alexa-enabled devices

Permalink - Posted on 2018-07-25 19:04

Via its Alexa Blog, Amazon has announced that it has moved its very important Echo Spatial Perception feature to a cloud-based platform; it was previously device dependent:

With Cloud ESP, all existing and new Alexa-enabled devices get the ESP feature with no requirement for device-side software changes. Cloud ESP also offers superior accuracy – even in noisy environments – and because Alexa is always getting smarter, the feature will continue to improve over time.

This seems to include third-party devices with Alexa as well, which bodes well for my recently acquired Sonos One. I’ve found even with ESP that the wrong Alexa device often responds to my requests, so here’s hoping that this move will make it more robust.


(Podcast) Clockwise #251: That's Literally the Thing That I Want

Permalink - Posted on 2018-07-25 17:41

This week, on the 30-minute show that probably isn’t a cartoon bomb, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Casey Liss and Christa Mrgan to discuss which of iMessage’s bells and whistles we actually use, whether Memoji will be incredibly or silly (or incredibly silly), what color we’d like to get an iPhone in, and what good non-earbud competitors to the AirPods are out there. Plus, tune in to here us pick which books we’d adapt into movies.


What's left for the Mac in 2018? (Macworld)

Permalink - Posted on 2018-07-25 16:38

This month Apple demonstrated that it doesn’t need a major media event to launch new Mac hardware, as it rolled out new MacBook Pro models with an invitation-only press briefing in New York City. Sure, there could be new Macs announced at Apple’s annual iPhone launch event in September, or even a follow-on event in October… but they could also appear at literally any other time. As I wrote last week, Apple’s rulebook has changed.

Regardless of timing, though, we are clearly in the middle of the next cycle of Mac updates, and I have some hope that most Mac models will be refreshed before the end of the year. Here’s what to look for, along with what I’m hoping we’ll see this fall—or, really, any week between now and the end of the year.


Apple releases software fix for MacBook Pro slowdown

Permalink - Posted on 2018-07-24 17:00, modified at 17:23

After a week of controversy following the posting of a video that claimed the new 15-inch MacBook Pro could experience massive slowdowns, Apple on Tuesday acknowledged that the slowdowns exist—and that they’re caused by a bug in the thermal management software of all the 2018 MacBook Pro models. That bug has been fixed in a software update that Apple says it’s pushing out to all 2018 MacBook Pro users as of Tuesday morning.

Here’s the official Apple statement, furnished to Six Colors by an Apple spokesperson:

Following extensive performance testing under numerous workloads, we’ve identified that there is a missing digital key in the firmware that impacts the thermal management system and could drive clock speeds down under heavy thermal loads on the new MacBook Pro. A bug fix is included in today’s macOS High Sierra 10.13.6 Supplemental Update and is recommended. We apologize to any customer who has experienced less than optimal performance on their new systems. Customers can expect the new 15-inch MacBook Pro to be up to 70% faster, and the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar to be up to 2X faster, as shown in the performance results on our website.

After YouTuber Dave Lee posted his video showing his new Core i9 MacBook Pro slowing to a crawl while exporting video from Adobe Premiere, as well as reports that the processor on the new MacBook Pros was being throttled all the way down to 800MHz, the company launched an investigation (and contacted Lee for more information about his specific project and settings). Apple’s own internal performance testing hadn’t triggered the issue, which turns out to not be app specific—Premiere, you’re out of the penalty box—and tends to affect heavy workloads that take place over an extended period of time.

The good news is, this doesn’t appear to be evidence that Apple’s laptop design is incapable of handling fast chips, but that someone at Apple had a bad day and failed to include a specific digital key that caused a cascade of bad behaviors in some very specific circumstances. (All laptops throttle the performance of processors in order to regulate temperature, of course, but it’s not supposed to happen to anywhere near the extent seen in Lee’s video.)

Tuesday’s Supplemental Update doesn’t seem to have any impact on performance—all of Apple’s previous claims (up to 70 percent of a speed boost on the 15-inch model versus last year’s version, and 2x the performance on the 13-inch compared to last year’s model) are still accurate. When given an opportunity to re-run his tests after applying the fix, Lee should find that his MacBook Pro is now clearly faster than last year’s model.


There's no such thing as free podcast hosting

Permalink - Posted on 2018-07-24 01:10, modified at 01:14

[Disclaimer: Anchor is a sponsor of several Relay FM podcasts, including some of mine.]

Nir Zicherman is a co-founder of Anchor, a company that offers easy tools for building and sharing audio content. He wrote a Medium post on Monday with the provocative title “Why You Should Never Pay for Podcast Hosting”:

Anchor has a singular mission, and that is to democratize audio. Democratization means making it possible for anyone to start a podcast, regardless of experience level, location, socio-economic status, or anything else.

What makes podcasting great is that anyone can do what used to only be the province of companies with radio licenses, which generally meant large corporations. But there are still barriers to podcasting: technical ones (it’s complicated to record and edit audio, and even more complicated to post it) and financial ones (computers, microphones, and hosting services cost money).

One of the most eye-opening experiences of my life as a podcaster was being on a panel about podcasting at a science-fiction convention and mentioning the price of what I considered a good starter microphone—$50—and seeing a whole lot of people gasp with shock at the high price. For some people, that’s too big an ask. The easier and cheaper podcasting is, the better.

I’m confident that Zicherman is sincere in his belief that improving access to podcasting can make the medium a much more diverse and vibrant place, and Anchor’s tools have the potential to let people create podcasts who would never have even bothered trying before. That’s good.

But while this post reads like a think piece, it’s also an advertisement for Anchor’s services and a challenge to its competitors. As such, it’s worth highlighting the business model behind the mission:

It means more than just enabling anyone to create podcasts. It also means enabling podcasters to create value from their work and ultimately make money off of their podcasts.

People may ask “So if you’re not making money off of me to host… what’s your business model?” We are not in the business of charging you, the podcaster. We want to work with you to help you make money off your podcast, in which case we all win….

There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Anchor is spending some of its millions in venture-capital investment to give free hosting to podcast users with a business model in mind: create enough volume that it can eventually monetize those podcasts by inserting ads and taking a cut.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s worth being clear about what the business model here, as micro.blog founder Manton Reese points out. Anchor’s hosting is free up front, yes, but they still want to make money from the content its customers create on its service. (If that business model sounds familiar, I’ll point you to YouTube. A lot of people have made a lot of money on YouTube, but a lot of YouTube creators could probably also warn you about the dangers of building a business off of a single provider that gives you hosting for free in return for a share of ad revenue.)

As Apple Podcasts marketer Steve Wilson put it: “I’m interested in seeing better, modern tools that will empower creators and grow the medium.” Anchor’s approach is interesting and could bear a lot of fruit; but sometimes services are also worth paying for. It depends on what your goals are.


(Podcast) Upgrade #203: I Have Felt the Power of the Snell Zone

Permalink - Posted on 2018-07-24 00:28, modified at 00:29

Federico Viticci and Serenity Caldwell join Jason and Myke to dive deep into how we use our iPads for business as well as creative pursuits, including writing and illustration. Why did Federico transform from a Mac user into one who rarely strays from his iPad? What keyboard and stand does Jason use to write? What apps is Ren using to draw? We break it all down.