Apple Opens Third-Party Watch Band Program 

I’m interested to see what this market winds up looking like. Will luxury retailers like Tiffany and Louis Vuitton make bands for Apple Watch?

‘One Day They’ll Understand Apple’ 

Ken Segall:

The truth is, being wrong about Apple’s future often stems from being wrong about Apple’s past. If you can’t appreciate what led to past successes, it’s tough to see the future ones.

Evergreen material.

Craig Hockenberry on discoveryd 

Craig Hockenberry:

So, Mom, it’s time to stop reading. I’m pissed off and you know how I get when that happens.

In case you’re wondering what I’m talking about, look at this shit. A network process using 100% of the CPU, WiFi disconnecting at random times, and names, names (1), names (2), names (4). All caused by a crappy piece of software called discoveryd.

Brian X. Chen on the Upcoming New Apple TV Remote 

Brian X. Chen, writing for the NYT:

When Apple introduces its new TV box this summer, the remote control will gain a touch pad and also be slightly thicker than the current version, according to an employee briefed on the product, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the device was confidential. The touch pad can be used for scrolling around and there will also be two physical buttons, the person said. The remote’s thicker size is comparable to the remote control for Amazon’s wireless speaker, the Echo, the person added.

Might be pretty cool if it’s a taptic trackpad, sort of like the new one for MacBooks. You might be able to “feel” menu items as you navigate the UI — eyes on the TV but fingers on the remote. And you could control fast-forward/rewind scrubbing speed by the force of your touch.

Steve Kovach Reviews Apple Watch 

Steve Kovach, writing for Business Insider:

I’ve spent over a week with the Apple Watch, and just as so many people misunderstood what iPhones, iPads, and Chromebooks were for, I can now see the same thing happening with Apple’s first wearable.

The Apple Watch is not a replacement for your iPhone. It’s not something you’re going to use for extended periods, your arm held at an uncomfortable angle while squinting at tweets and emails on the small screen.

The Apple Watch is best used as that: a watch. It’s something you check for a second or two and then put away. And in 2015, it’s nice to have a watch that can do more than simply tell time. We can carry it around with us everywhere we go, and it springs to life when it receives a notification: a text, an email, a tweet, a Facebook message. Those notifications don’t always need a response, but they are important to glance at, just like the time.

Bingo. Don’t overthink it. Really solid review overall, one of the best I’ve seen. On third-party apps:

Just about every major app, from Twitter to Instagram to Starbucks, has an app for the Apple Watch. So far, there are about 3,500 apps available, and most stink.

The Verge: Apple Pushing Music Labels to Kill Free Spotify Streaming Ahead of Beats Relaunch 

Micah Singleton, reporting for The Verge:

The Department of Justice is looking closely into Apple’s business practices in relation to its upcoming music streaming service, according to multiple sources. The Verge has learned that Apple has been pushing major music labels to force streaming services like Spotify to abandon their free tiers, which will dramatically reduce the competition for Apple’s upcoming offering. DOJ officials have already interviewed high-ranking music industry executives about Apple’s business habits. […]

Getting the music labels to kill the freemium tiers from Spotify and others could put Apple in prime position to grab a large swath of new users when it launches its own streaming service, which is widely expected to feature a considerable amount of exclusive content. “All the way up to Tim Cook, these guys are cutthroat,” one music industry source said.

Samsung ‘Designing Possible’ Ad 

As Dave Pell quipped, “Samsung is basically a cover band at this point.”

Pixate 

My thanks to Pixate for once again sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. With Pixate, mobile designers can craft sophisticated animations and interactions for any form factor — without writing code. Full-fledged interaction designs for iOS and Android, not with web views, but with 100 percent native prototypes. Pixate is now available as a standalone app for Mac and Windows.

Try it now and save 10 percent with code “FIREBALL”.

660 

What a thrill and honor for the great fans of Boston to have witnessed this historic dinger from the most productive career hitter in the game today.

Speaking of Apple Products and Water Resistance 

David W. Brown, writing for The Atlantic back in 2011:

When engineers working on the very first iPod completed the prototype, they presented their work to Steve Jobs for his approval. Jobs played with the device, scrutinized it, weighed it in his hands, and promptly rejected it. It was too big.

The engineers explained that they had to reinvent inventing to create the iPod, and that it was simply impossible to make it any smaller. Jobs was quiet for a moment. Finally he stood, walked over to an aquarium, and dropped the iPod in the tank. After it touched bottom, bubbles floated to the top.

“Those are air bubbles,” he snapped. “That means there’s space in there. Make it smaller.”

How common is it for these rooms at Apple to have aquariums in them? That sounds fishy to me.

Water Resistant-ish 

Paul Kafasis goes deep (well, 1 meter deep) on Apple Watch’s water resistance:

It turns out that much like yourself, a bit of water won’t kill the Apple Watch, but four blows right to the face probably will.

The Talk Show: ‘I Touched Ron Johnson’ 

This week’s episode of my podcast, with special guest John Moltz. Topics include Gruber’s retina, Apple Watch backorders and the watch itself, news from Microsoft’s Build conference, how to introduce yourself to people you’ve publicly branded a “jackass”, and more.

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Phone Sales in China 

While on the subject of charting sales trends, here’s an interesting one from Ben Bajarin on smartphone sales share in China. A lot of movement just in the last year alone.

Plotting Apple Sales Trends 

Kieran Healy, following up on Dr. Drang’s post on the iPad’s sales slump:

Dr Drang put up a characteristically sharp post looking at sales trends in Apple Macs, iPhones, and iPads. He used moving averages to show long-term sales trends effectively, and he made a convincing argument that iPad sales are in decline. I ended up grabbing the sales data myself from barefigur.es and more or less copying him. Instead of a moving average, here’s a plot of the trends showing the individual sales figures with a LOESS smoother fitted to them.

Truly fascinating visualizations of Apple’s sales trends for iPhone, iPad, and Mac.

Moving Averages and the iPad 

Loved this post from Dr. Drang, on how to accurately visualize the declining trend in iPad sales:

There are myriad other ways to smooth a graph without switching to cumulative figures. One of the simplest is the moving average. In this technique, instead of plotting the raw data, you plot the average of a few data points in the neighborhood of each time value.

For many data sets, the best size of this neighborhood is not obvious. With Apple’s sales figures, though, I think it’s clear that the best choice is to average over four quarters: the quarter that you’re plotting and the three previous. This smooths over the seasonal jumpiness while not including so much past data as to ignore real trends.

As for why iPad sales have hit this slump, I really liked this explanation from one of Drang’s readers:

Ben Packard, in an email, suggests my reason for dismissing the durability explanation for the iPad sales decline is weak. The Mac, he says, has been around long enough for there to be substantial numbers of owners at every stage of ownership, but far more iPad users are still on their first iPad. Whatever the long term replacement cycle of iPads turns out to be, we’re still in the first one, too early for variations in when people bought their most recent iPad to have evened out.

Wrist Tattoos Interfere With Apple Watch Sensors 

Serenity Caldwell, writing for iMore:

Recently, we’ve been hearing reports from Twitter and Reddit that the Apple Watch’s plethysmograph sensor plays not-so-nicely with wrist or arm sleeve tattoos. The ink pigmentation interferes with the sensor’s ability to read your heart rate — and with it, the Watch’s ability to assess whether or not it’s maintaining skin contact. […]

For those wondering: natural skin pigmentation doesn’t block light the same way artificial ink pigment or even scar tissue does, so you shouldn’t run into a problem if your skin is naturally darker.


Watch, Apple Watch

When You Were Young and Your Heart Was an Open Book

Regular readers of this column are well aware of my affinity for the James Bond movies. I’ve been a fan for as long as I can remember. As a kid growing up in the late ’70s and early ’80s, I was a staunch Roger Moore fan. I loved the Connery films too, but they felt old, and as a kid, “old” is not cool. That perspective applied even to their watches. Roger Moore wore digital watches; Sean Connery wore mechanicals. Digital watches were cool; analog watches were old-fashioned.

Today, I’ve come to my senses, and I know that Connery was and always will be the definitive James Bond, and his Rolex Submariner — reference 6538 — the definitive Bond watch. The coolest of the cool. But Moore’s Bond’s digital watches were cool, too. Connery drove the most memorable Bond car, but Moore’s watches are the ones that most people think of when they think of a James Bond watch — the ones that were laden with secret gadgets. Connery’s Rolex was just a Rolex.

Look at this Pulsar from Moore’s first Bond movie, 1973’s Live and Let Die. It had a red LED display that, to preserve battery life, only turned on to display the time when you pressed a button. (Hold that thought.) And then there’s this gem — a Seiko DK001 from 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me, which could receive secure text messages from MI6. I mean look at it:

James Bond’s Seiko digital watch receiving a message from MI6 in “The Spy Who Loved Me”

The idea of a digital watch that can receive secure text messages was remarkably prescient. The idea that the messages would print out on ticker tape was remarkably silly. How could a device that size include a label printer? How many messages could it receive before running out of tape? Why would a spy want secret messages from headquarters printed out?1 The proper design, in hindsight, is obvious: the messages should have been displayed on screen — which is exactly how Bond’s Seiko worked in 1981’s For Your Eyes Only. And look at the design. Even the style of Apple’s link bracelet is reminiscent of that ’70s Seiko.

This is what Apple Watch is: an ambitious modern take on the digital watch.

You Know You Did, You Know You Did, You Know You Did

I’ve worn analog watches since sometime in college, and in recent years I’ve fallen hard for purely mechanical automatics. But I’ve always had, and always will have, a soft spot for digital watches. I’ve always thought watches were cool. I’ve always thought computers and electronic gadgets were cool. Digital watches exist at the intersection of these interests.

My watches as a teenager were digitals made by Casio, pretty much like this one that you can still buy today for $10: black plastic watch, resin strap, two buttons on each side. The interfaces were complex, inscrutable at first. I always knew the interfaces were bad, but I accepted them because I wanted the features. I liked having a stopwatch and countdown timer. And of course the interface was complicated: all these features were packed into a tiny little watch.

During the past four weeks, I’m surprised how much I’ve been reminded of those Casios. In the way it felt cool in 1987 to have all those features on my wrist, it feels cool today to have these features on my wrist. This is the watch my teenage 1987 self would have expected my 2015 self to own. Apple Watch’s interaction model is complicated. That doesn’t mean it’s too complicated — and I don’t think it is. There’s simply no way to avoid complexity with the number of features — which, borrowing from the terminology of the horological world, Apple is calling “complications” — Apple Watch encompasses.

Do not expect to strap on Apple Watch for the first time and feel entirely at home. It’s different, new, and surprisingly expansive. Apple Watch demands exploration. Those old Casios were arbitrary.2 Apple Watch has a logic behind its interaction design — but it needs to be used to be fully understood. The basics are obvious — initial setup and pairing with your iPhone remarkably so — but not everything. It’s a tool you have to learn to use. It is not an iPhone on your wrist.

But here’s the thing. Much of the criticism of Apple Watch is being driven by the question “Do you need an Apple Watch?” And that is simply the wrong question. It’s not useful for evaluating the watch as a product or platform, and it’s not useful to answering the question as to whether you or anyone else should buy one.

Apple Watch is not hard to understand fundamentally. It’s just a digital watch, reimagined for today’s world, where wireless networking is nearly ubiquitous, and a fully functional computer that runs all day long can be fitted in a 38mm watch case. That’s it. “Just a watch” doesn’t mean “just a timepiece”. A watch is a gadget of which timekeeping is just one possible feature. Digital watches, in particular, have always been about more than just the time and date, and Apple Watch takes this and runs with it.

It needs to justify its existence no more than any other watch — mechanical or electronic — ever made. Of course you don’t need it. No one, not one person on the face of the earth, needs any $400 watch, Apple Watch or otherwise.3

The right question is simply “Do you want one?

It’s about desire, not necessity. Convenience, fun, and style are not needs. They’re wants. And people will gladly pay for what they want. The iPad faced similar misguided criticism. How many times did you hear or read someone say of the iPad, “Why would anyone who already has a phone and a laptop need an iPad?” That was the wrong question, because almost no one needed an iPad. The right question was “Why would someone who has a phone and laptop also want an iPad?

In my initial review of the Apple Watch three weeks ago, I wrote:

Loosely, the path of all consumer electronic categories is to evolve as ever more computer-y gadgets, until a tipping point occurs and they turn into ever more gadget-y genuine computers. The sample size (in terms of product categories) is small, but Apple seemingly tries to enter markets at, or just after, that tipping point — when Moore’s Law and Apple’s ever-increasing engineering and manufacturing prowess allow them to produce a gadget-y computer that the computer-y gadgets from the established market leaders cannot compete with. That was the iPod. That was the iPhone.

That, they hope, is Apple Watch.

Asked about wearable devices two years ago at All Things D, Tim Cook said, “The wrist is interesting. The wrist is natural.” That Apple would make a watch, if not necessarily this watch, is the natural, dare I say inevitable result of these two factors: the wrist is a natural place for a wearable gadget, and Apple can now make a full computer with acceptable battery life4 the size of a watch.

Half the fun of the gadgets like Roger Moore’s Bond’s watches was imagining that we — regular folks in the real world — would have them in the future, alongside jetpacks and flying cars. Phone calls on our wrists. Asking our watch, verbally, what time tonight’s Yankees game starts and getting the correct answer a few moments later. But importantly: packaged not as a clumsy, homely device, but in the casing of, well, a nice, stylish watch.

If you don’t see the joy in that having come to fruition — both sides of it, the function and the style, the engineering and the design — then of course you’re not going to see the point of all the hoopla surrounding Apple Watch. And if you do see the joy in it, if you do think it’s cool that it even exists, then don’t overthink it. It’s a cool watch that does cool things. 


  1. In theory, Bond’s watch could have printed “secure” messages by using some sort of self-destructing ticker tape material, but everyone knows self-destructing messages from HQ are a Mission: Impossible thing. ↩︎︎

  2. Here’s a user manual I found for a vintage Seiko digital watch. Not quite the same model as the one from the Bond films, but close. Download it and see how un-obvious just about everything was — from setting the time to using the stopwatch. This four-button interface is more or less how every digital watch from my youth worked. (So much so that it makes me wonder whether Casio and the rest of the industry’s digital watches were in fact rather shameless lower-priced rip-offs of Seiko’s groundbreaking designs.) ↩︎︎

  3. I can imagine future scenarios, where Apple Watch functions as a true medical monitoring device (blood sugar, for example), which could justify it as a true need for many. ↩︎︎

  4. A study in contrasts across the computer-y gadget/gadget-y computer inflection point: these Casio Databank watches get up to 10 years of battery life. ↩︎︎


Windows 10 to Run Recompiled Android and iOS Apps 

Tom Warren, reporting from Microsoft’s Build conference for The Verge:

The idea is simple, get apps on Windows 10 without the need for developers to rebuild them fully for Windows. While it sounds simple, the actual process will be a little more complicated than just pushing a few buttons to recompile apps.

Only the problem is simple: Windows Phone doesn’t have enough apps, and doesn’t have any developer momentum. It’s a third platform in a two-platform world.

The solution sounds complicated. Games are one thing — cross-compilation and shared code bases work fine for many games. But for actual apps, running apps designed for platform A on platform B never looks or feels right, even if technically it “works”. Running apps from platforms A and B on platform C? Yikes.

During Microsoft’s planning for bringing iOS and Android apps to Windows, Myerson admits it wasn’t always an obvious choice to have both. “At times we’ve thought, let’s just do iOS,” Myerson explains. “But when we think of Windows we really think of everyone on the planet. There’s countries where iOS devices aren’t available.”

You can please some of the people all of the time, or all of the people some of the time — but Microsoft remains constitutionally drawn to the pipe dream of pleasing all of the people all of the time.

More From Quartz on iPhone and iPad Aggregate Sales Since Launch 

Dan Frommer:

Now five years old, Apple’s iPad tablet is still the company’s fastest-selling product line of all time. But not for long. As iPad demand has slowed, its cumulative sales curve is likely to fall behind the iPhone’s within the next six months.

The iPad, launched in early 2010, set records as the fastest Apple product to hit 10 million shipments (during its first year); 100 million (third year); and 250 million (fifth year). But its trajectory has flattened. Shipments last quarter, which Apple revealed yesterday, fell 23% year-over-year to 12.6 million.

I think the iPad is sort of like a young phenom in sports. It came on so fast, so strong, that many keen observers — including me — expected it to eclipse the iPhone.

That isn’t panning out. But I think we, collectively, are now judging the iPad’s actual sales and success not for what they are but for what we expected they were going to be. It’s a good, popular, much-used family of products that continues to sell really well. Not iPhone-well, but well. Being only the second-fastest-selling product in Apple history, instead of the first, is nothing to sneeze at.

Secret Shutting Down 

Brendan Klinkenberg, reporting for BuzzFeed:

In a post on Medium, founder David Byttow addressed and expanded upon the decision to shut down Secret. “Unfortunately, Secret does not represent the vision I had when starting the company,” Byttow writes, “so I believe it’s the right decision for myself, our investors and our team.”

In the post, Byttow announced that Secret will be returning the “significant” amount of invested capital still in the company’s possession to its investors. Secret had reportedly raised more than $37 million, at a valuation of over $100 million.

$100 million valuation. Here’s a secret for you: anyone who invested in Secret is a dope.

Best line in this whole saga is the closing sentence of Mike Isaac’s report for the NYT:

Mr. Byttow’s once-prized red Ferrari is also gone, a person with knowledge of the matter said.

‘I Screwed Up The Academy Awards, and I Couldn’t Be More Proud’ 

Great link re: the previous item: David Letterman guesting on the final episode of The Jon Stewart Show on MTV back in 1995. (Thanks to Orion Woody.)

David Letterman Reflects on 33 Years in Late-Night Television 

Fantastic, candid interview with Letterman by Dave Itzkoff for the NYT:

Q: Did you have any involvement in choosing Stephen Colbert as your successor?

A: No. Not my show. When we sign off, we’re out of business with CBS. I always thought Jon Stewart would have been a good choice. And then Stephen. And then I thought, well, maybe this will be a good opportunity to put a black person on, and it would be a good opportunity to put a woman on. Because there are certainly a lot of very funny women that have television shows everywhere. So that would have made sense to me as well.

Q: But you were not consulted?

A: [shakes head no] Mm-mmm.

Q: Did that bother you?

A: Yeah, I guess so. Just as a courtesy, maybe somebody would say: “You know, we’re kicking around some names. Do you have any thoughts here?” But it doesn’t bother me now. At the time, I had made the decision [to leave] and I thought, O.K., this is what comes when you make this decision.

Stewart was always my pick, too.

Regarding Recode’s Report That ‘No Defective Apple Watches Reached Consumers’ 

Strange piece reported by Dawn Chmielewski for Recode, on the faulty taptic engines plaguing Apple Watch production, starting with the headline: “No Defective Apple Watches Reached Consumers”:

Apple identified a flaw in a critical component of its Apple Watch before any of them were shipped to consumers, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

This certainly makes it sound as though Chmielewski has her own sources for this story, and isn’t just repeating what the WSJ reported earlier today.

The part, known as the taptic engine, produces a subtle tap on the wrist to alert the wearer of an incoming message or other notification. Quality assurance testing revealed that some of these components supplied by AAC Technologies Holdings in Shenzhen, China, would break over time, the Wall Street Journal reported.

But now she’s attributing it to the Journal. This strikes me as vague sourcing — does Chmielewski have her own “people familiar with the matter” or is she only re-reporting from the WSJ? (Update: I think what happened — think — is that after the WSJ story broke, Apple contacted Chmielewski, Moorhead (see below) and the WSJ itself (see “Update 1”, below) to emphasize, off the record, that the problem was identified before the defective taptic engines were shipped to customers. But the sourcing on this story doesn’t make clear what’s coming from the WSJ’s original report and what’s coming from these new sources “familiar with the matter”.)

Apple has shifted production to a second supplier, Japan’s Nidec, which didn’t experience this problem, according to the Journal.

“I believe no faulty Apple Watches were shipped to consumers,” said Patrick Moorhead, founder of Moor Insights & Strategy. “I don’t think this is damaging at all.”

As I experienced firsthand, and as I’ve heard from at least one DF reader (whom I know and trust), some watches shipped to consumers do have faulting taptic engines. That doesn’t mean it’s a widespread problem, of course. When you make millions of anything, there are surely all sorts of rare problems that crop up. And for all I know, the failed taptic engine in my first review unit might have been from Nidec, not AAC Technologies.

What struck me about this quote, and Recode’s decision to base their headline on it, is how would Patrick Moorhead — an independent “technology analyst” — know whether any of the faulty taptic engines from AAC shipped to consumers? Is he just speculating based on the fact that there aren’t widespread complaints? If he really is in a position to know this information, should Recode explain how he knows it?

I don’t know how anyone outside Apple would know whether faulty or possibly faulty taptic engines from AAC shipped to consumers. But signs suggest that some of them — even if just a handful — did ship.

Update 1: The WSJ’s report breaking this story has been updated with a new third paragraph, which wasn’t there in earlier revisions:

Apple doesn’t plan a recall, because there’s no indication that Apple shipped any watches with the defective part to customers.

Apple Details How It Rebuilt Siri on Apache Mesos 

Yet another sign of a more open Apple — Siri engineers spoke in public about the third-generation (and as I noted a few months ago, much improved) back-end for Siri. Some notes from Derrick Harris, writing for the Mesosphere blog:

  • Apple’s custom Mesos scheduler is called J.A.R.V.I.S., which is short for Just A Rather Very Intelligent Scheduler. It’s named after Tony Stark’s intelligent computer assistant in the Iron Man movies (and technically, I’m told, his human butler in the old comic books). […]

  • Siri’s Mesos backend represents its third generation, and a move away from “traditional” infrastructure. Apple’s work with Mesos and J.A.R.V.I.S. predates the open-sourcing of Marathon (by Mesosphere) and Apache Aurora (by Twitter) in 2013.

  • Not only has Mesos helped make Siri scalable and available on the infrastructure front, it has also improved latency on the app itself.

It really does show, and it matters. Siri’s performance and reliability are essential to the Apple Watch experience.

On Baltimore’s No-Crowd Baseball Game This Afternoon 

Paul Kafasis on the decision to play today’s Orioles-White Sox game in Baltimore in an empty Camden Yards:

Holding a sporting event in the middle of a rioting city is fraught enough, but at least a claim could be made of doing it for the fans desiring a dose of normality. Playing to an empty stadium, however, will only alienate the public further. If a city isn’t safe enough to host a baseball game in front of a crowd, it shouldn’t host a baseball game at all.

“Keep Calm and Carry On” has become a household phrase, but we, as a country, sure don’t act like it. If you want to restore normalcy, act normal. I watched some of today’s game on TV, and there were no signs at all that they couldn’t have played the game normally. Fans stood on the street and watched the game in peace.

Moving the game to the afternoon made sense. Playing without any fans in the park was a mistake.

WSJ: ‘Apple Watch: Faulty Taptic Engine Slows Roll Out’ 

Daisuke Wakabayashi and Lorraine Luk, reporting for the WSJ:

A key component of the Apple Watch made by one of two suppliers was found to be defective, prompting Apple Inc. to limit the availability of the highly anticipated new product, according to people familiar with the matter.

The part involved is the so-called taptic engine, designed by Apple to produce the sensation of being tapped on the wrist. After mass production began in February, reliability testing revealed that some taptic engines supplied by AAC Technologies Holdings Inc., of Shenzhen, China, started to break down over time, the people familiar with the matter said. One of those people said Apple scrapped some completed watches as a result.

Taptic engines produced by a second supplier, Japan’s Nidec Corp., didn’t experience the same problem, the people said. Apple has moved nearly all of its production of the component to Nidec, these people said, but it may take time for Nidec to increase its production.

Recall that my first review unit had a bum taptic engine — it worked when I first started using it, but struck me as weak. By the end of the first day it wasn’t working at all, and Apple supplied me with a second watch the next day. I’ve also heard from at least one DF reader whose Apple Watch Sport had a non-functioning taptic engine (he got it replaced at his local Apple Store). So some of these have made it out of the factories and into the wild. But it certainly doesn’t seem to be a rampant problem in the field.

The closing paragraph of the Journal’s story is a bizarre jab:

The shortages highlight the potential downside of Apple’s lean supply chain. Apple can produce massive quantities of products with little waste and excess supply, but it can experience shortages when a problem arises with a key part.

As a friend quipped to me by text, “So the potential downside of the most successful manufacturing system in history is that when they run out of parts they can’t make stuff.” The potential downside isn’t with Apple’s supply chain — it’s with Apple’s use of brand-new never-before-manufactured-at-scale components. It’s the inherent risk of any groundbreaking new product. What in the world is the Journal suggesting Apple should do differently?

Update: The WSJ report now contains a new third paragraph, which wasn’t there when it was first reported:

Apple doesn’t plan a recall, because there’s no indication that Apple shipped any watches with the defective part to customers.

CST-01: $1M Kickstarter With Nothing to Show 

Sage Lazzaro, writing for The New York Observer:

In January of 2013, a company called Central Standard Time launched a $200,000 Kickstarter campaign for CST-01, a sleek and minimal stainless steel wristwatch that is only 0.80 mm thick, making it the thinnest watch ever made. The watch (note: not a smartwatch) was an instant hit, and by campaign’s end, the creators had rounded up over $1 million in funding and more than 7,500 ecstatic backers.

It’s now been more than two years since the watches should’ve shipped, but backers are confused, skeptical, furious and above all, watch-less. Even the earliest supporters haven’t received theirs, yet the money is supposedly gone, and with it, the faith of the once incredibly loyal backers.

The world’s thinnest watch: so thin it doesn’t exist.

Crowdfunded products are gambles, especially hardware ones. My wife backed this gadget on Indiegogo to the tune of $450. It was originally supposed to ship a year ago, and so far she hasn’t gotten anything.

Heather Armstrong Moves on From Dooce 

Heather Armstrong, announcing that she’s no longer writing Dooce.com full-time, and is moving on to speaking and consulting:

But what makes this livelihood glaringly different are not only the constant creative strains of churning out new and entertaining content — content we cannot delegate to anyone else because our audiences read our stories for our particular voice and perspective — but also the security systems we’ve had to set up as an increasingly more diverse group of people throw rocks at our houses with the intention of causing damage: passersby, rubbernecks, stalkers, even journalists. We have separate security systems for those who take every word and decision we share and deliberately misinterpret it, disfigure it to the point of it being wholly unrecognizable, and then broadcast to us and to their own audiences that they have diagnosed us with a personality disorder.

“Living online” for us looks completely different now than it did when we all set out to build this community, and the emotional and physical toll of it is rapidly becoming a health hazard.

Jason Kottke:

Two or three years ago, I thought I would do my site professionally for the rest of my life, or at least a good long while. The way things are going, in another year or two, I’m not sure that’s even going to be an option. The short window of time in which individuals could support themselves by blogging is closing rapidly.

Quartz Charts Apple’s Second Quarter Results 

Lots of interesting visualizations. The one that struck me was the last one, showing that the iPad remains ahead of the iPhone in terms of cumulative sales since launch. Apple has sold more iPads in its first 57 months than they sold iPhones in its first 57 months. The gap is narrowing, however.

This Is Tim: Six Colors’s Transcript of Tim Cook’s Remarks on the Analyst Call 

Fast-typing Jason Snell has a transcript of Tim Cook’s remarks. Regarding the company’s projection that Apple Watch will have lower margins than the company’s average next quarter:

In the first quarter of any kind of product, you would always have learning and these sorts of things. We’ve had this with every product we’ve ever done. And so again, we’re not guiding to what it will be over time, we’re talking about what it is now. I would keep in mind that the functionality of the product that we’re making is absolutely incredible, the power of it. And I’d also say, generally there’s cost breakdowns that come out around our products that are much different than the reality. I’ve never seen one that is anywhere close to being accurate. And so if that’s the basis of your comment, I’d really dig on the data if I were you.

Countdown to iSuppli projection that Apple Watch Sport costs the company $67 in three, two, one…

Regarding iPad sales:

When you look at the underlying data, it makes you feel a lot better than the sales do. Things like first-time buyer rates, the latest numbers from the U.S. are like around 40 percent, and when you look at China they’re almost 70 percent. These numbers are not numbers you would get if the market were saturated, so I continue to believe — even though I’ve seen different people write that — I think that theory is not correct. We also see usage numbers that are off the charts, so far above competition, it’s not even in the same planet. And we see customer satisfaction at or near 100 percent. So these kind of numbers, along with intent-to-buy numbers, everything looks fantastic. So my belief is that as the inventory plays out, as we make some continued investments in our product pipeline which we’re doing, that we’ve already had planned and have had planned for some time… I think still, I believe the iPad is an extremely good business over the long term. When precisely it begins to grow again I wouldn’t want to predict, but I strongly believe that it will.

My reading on this: lots of people are still buying their first iPad — 40 percent of sales in the U.S., a remarkable 70 percent in China. So the market for “tablets” is not saturated. Usage numbers and customer satisfaction are high too, so it’s not that people who bought iPads previously aren’t happy with them. The problem, thus, is that older iPads continue to work just fine. People don’t replace them every two or three years like they do with their phones.

Apple Reports Record Second Quarter Results 

Apple:

Apple today announced financial results for its fiscal 2015 second quarter ended March 28, 2015. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $58 billion and quarterly net profit of $13.6 billion, or $2.33 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $45.6 billion and net profit of $10.2 billion, or $1.66 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 40.8 percent compared to 39.3 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 69 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

The growth was fueled by record second quarter sales of iPhone and Mac and all-time record performance of the App Store.

If there’s a dark cloud in the numbers, it’s the iPad. Sales dropped precipitously year-over-year, from 16.3 million in Q2 2014 to 12.6 million this quarter.

But overall, Apple’s growth continues to amaze. They’re the largest company in the world by market cap, but are reporting double-digit growth. For context, five years ago Steve Jobs noted, with considerable pride, that Apple had become a $50 billion company in annual revenue. Today, they’re a $50 billion company in quarterly revenue, and are easily on pace to book $50 billion in annual profit this financial year.

The Difference Between Apple and Samsung Industrial Design 

Rene Ritchie:

But when I looked at the picture of Samsung’s product, it wasn’t the sticker that bothered me so much. That, I assume, can be peeled off. It was something else I saw that bothered me, and something I can now never un-see.

It’s the lack of basic alignment.

Apple’s Antitrust Lord 

WSJ editorial excoriating Michael Bromwich, the “outside monitor” appointed by Judge Denise Cote:

To take one example of this feather-bedding, for Feb. 17 Mr. Bromwich charged Apple with a block-billing entry that included “review relevant media articles.” The same day we published an editorial, “All Along the Apple Watchtower,” as well as excerpts from a related appeals-court hearing. When Apple flagged the expense, Mr. Bromwich replied, “We do not charge the time for reading the newspaper except when the WSJ editorials focus specifically on our work.”

We hope we provide value for money, but it’s flattering to be read at Mr. Bromwich’s hourly rate of $1,100, $1,025 for Mr. Nigro, and a 15% “administrative fee” for his consulting firm. The larger conflict of interest inherent in this revenue stream raises questions about the impartiality required of Mr. Bromwich as an officer of the court. He even suggests in his report he may require more than the two-year term that expires in October.

Consumer Reports’s Initial Apple Watch Test Results 

Impressive scratch-resistance results, especially for the sapphire crystal on the steel Apple Watch. Water resistance was as good as promised, and the heart rate monitor was as accurate as their highest-rated dedicated chest-strap monitor.

More details here.

Conversation With a Tech Support Scammer 

Lenny Zeltser:

When investigating an incident that involved domain redirection and a suspected tech support scam, I recorded my interactions with the individual posing as a help desk technician and researched the background of this scheme. It was an educational exchange, to say the least. Here’s what I learned about this person’s and his employer’s techniques and objectives.

Fascinating story. That they offer a “senior citizen discount” gives you a clue as to their target audience. (Via InfoSec Taylor Swift.)

Apple Collecting Red Cross Donations via iTunes for Nepal Earthquake Relief 

This is a good way to help the people of Nepal — 100 percent of the money collected goes to the Red Cross, and because it’s through iTunes, you can do it with just a few clicks from your Mac or iOS device. If you haven’t chipped in already, take a few moments and do it now.

Update: Another convenient way to help: Square is collecting money for UNICEF relief efforts.

Todoist 

My thanks to Todoist for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Todoist is a task manager that tracks everything you need to do and achieve your most important goals in less time, with less work.

Todoist has exclusive features like natural language date parsing, productivity-tracking, sub-tasks, labels and filters, location-aware alerts, project sharing and more. Todoist is the ultimate to-do list for power users. Available on 15 different platforms (including Mac and iOS), Todoist will help you stay organized and productive anywhere, on all your devices. And it’s completely free to get started.

Google Engineer Dies on Mt. Everest 

Conor Dougherty, reporting for the NYT:

On Saturday, Dan Fredinburg was at a base camp on Mount Everest when a powerful earthquake in Nepal set off an avalanche. Mr. Fredinburg was killed, Google said in a statement posted on its website.

“Sadly, we lost one of our own in this tragedy,” the statement said. “Dan Fredinburg, a longtime member of the Privacy organization in Mountain View, was in Nepal with three other Googlers, hiking Mount Everest. He has passed away. The other three Googlers with him are safe, and we are working to get them home quickly.”

Shortly before, an Instagram post on Mr. Fredinburg’s account went up: “This is Dan’s little sister Megan,” the message began. “I regret to inform all who loved him that during the avalanche on Everest early this morning our Dan suffered from a major head injury and didn’t make it.”

Kind of surreal perusing his Instagram account — he was posting from the expedition.

White House Email System Was Compromised by Russians 

Michael S. Schmidt and David E. Sanger, reporting for the NYT:

Some of President Obama’s email correspondence was swept up by Russian hackers last year in a breach of the White House’s unclassified computer system that was far more intrusive and worrisome than has been publicly acknowledged, according to senior American officials briefed on the investigation.

The hackers, who also got deeply into the State Department’s unclassified system, do not appear to have penetrated closely guarded servers that control the message traffic from Mr. Obama’s BlackBerry, which he or an aide carries constantly.

In 2009 it seemed forward-thinking that the president carried a BlackBerry. Now, it feels preposterously behind the times.

28 Apple Watch Tips and Tricks 

Good collection from Serenity Caldwell. Clearing all notifications with a force tap is a great feature — and something that’s sorely missing on iOS and OS X.

Suzy Menkes Interviews Jony Ive and Marc Newson at Condé Nast Luxury Conference in Florence 

Suzy Menkes: “There’s no doubt that you are now producing things that may be more desirable than traditional luxury to consumers, particularly the younger consumers, don’t you think?”

Jony Ive: “I don’t know — we’ll see!” Smiles while audience laughs. “We’ll see.”

(Via Abdel Ibrahim.)


Android Wear’s Low-Power Ambient Mode

Josh Lowensohn, writing for The Verge on Google’s latest update to Android Wear:

Two other changes Google’s made in the update impact what you see on screen, and how you interact with it. One is a new low-power mode for the screen when you’re not actively looking at it. It allows apps to ambiently display just a minimal amount of data, usually in black and white, without a gesture to turn the screen on. Google already does this for your watch face, but is opening up the feature for apps too. This is especially useful for things like shopping lists, fitness apps, and music controls, Chang says. Developers will now be able to tweak how often the information you see gets updated in the low-power mode, but it could ultimately mean less fiddling.

This is a significant difference between Android Wear and Apple Watch. Apple Watch and most1 Android Wear watches use OLED displays, on which black pixels consume little power. Apple Watch embraces its OLED display by presenting an “on” UI where almost everything has a black background — its watch faces, the app home screen, and all of the built-in apps have black backgrounds. When you read email on Apple Watch, it’s white text on a black background. It’s a very different aesthetic from iOS and Mac OS, where the default has always been black text on a white background. The other thing worth noting is that when Apple Watch is “off”, the screen turns off completely. It’s just black.

Android Wear has a colorful Material Design-style UI for its “on” state — white backgrounds and lots of primary colors, very much the same aesthetic design as Google’s apps for Android and iOS. It looks like what its name implies: a version of Android running on a watch. Its “off” state, though, uses a black background and a small amount of static (non-animated) status information. Like, say, the hour and minute hands of an analog clock face, and/or the text of your most recent notification. Like with Pebble, something is displayed on screen unless the device is truly powered off. This is undeniably useful, and something like this ambient mode for Apple Watch would address my complaint about not being able to glance the time without moving my wrist at all.

Apple’s approach is more conservative energy-wise in both “on” and “off” states. Google’s leaves something informative on screen at all times.

Apple’s decision to have the screen display nothing while “off” was clearly a concession to battery life. But I’m convinced that Apple chose the black-background look for the “on” state more for aesthetic reasons than for battery life — a fundamental aspect of Apple Watch’s design is that you can almost never see where the screen ends and the surrounding bezel begins. It’s a compelling, elegant effect. The battery-life advantages of this design are just a nice side effect. 


  1. The Moto 360 uses an LCD display, which is why ambient mode is turned off by default on it↩︎︎


Custom Watch Faces

A weekend Twitter thread regarding custom watch faces for Android Wear and the prospects of custom faces for Apple Watch led me to FaceRepo, a repository of downloadable watch faces for Android Wear. Remember the sites with “skins” for SoundJam and Audion? Like that, but for Android Wear. A few thoughts that went through my mind after perusing the offerings:

  • I don’t expect Apple to open up watch faces to arbitrary designs, even when the full Apple Watch SDK ships later this year. If they do allow third-party faces, I think it’ll be through design partners hand-selected by Apple. (The Mickey face is arguably an example of this already.) The idea of fully-customizable watch faces is right in the sweet spot between the differing philosophies of Google (anything goes) and Apple (tightly controlled). Apple Watch currently offers 10 different faces, and most of those faces offer a lot of customization regarding which complications are visible, and the tint colors. It’s a lot of fun to play with, but here’s the thing: there is no way to set up a watch face that is ugly, or that doesn’t look very Apple-Watch-y. Even the Mickey face looks like an Apple Watch Mickey face, because of the San Francisco font on the hour markers and the complications. That is by design, and I don’t see that changing.

  • Among those in favor of full customization, Andy Ihnatko tweeted: “Like, what if Apple said ‘We don’t trust you to choose well-designed iPhone wallpaper.’” We don’t have to imagine — that’s exactly what Apple did until iOS 4 in 2010. For the first three years of the iPhone, you got a black background on your home screen and you liked it. This is what makes Apple so polarizing, and often unpopular with the tinkering crowd — they will limit user configurability, often severely, in the name of design purity and brand consistency. “This is what we, the designers of this product, want it to look like” vs. “Go ahead and make it look however you, the user, want it to look”.

  • I’m a little surprised at how heavily skeuomorphic many of these Android Wear faces are — they’re heavy on 3D lighting effects, textures, drop shadows, and in some cases even fake watch crystal gloss. That aesthetic feels surprisingly dated to my eyes today. That’s not just an Apple thing, either — Android’s Material Design has moved just as far from skeuomorphic textures. The default faces for most Android Wear devices are not like this (but some are), but these third-party ones skew heavily towards this blingy Kai’s Power Tools aesthetic.

  • And then there’s this one, which made my day.

  • To be fair to Google, the third-party faces featured on their Play Store are more in tune with the Material Design aesthetic. But most of them are very colorful. These, for example, fit right in with Material Design — and would stick out like sore thumbs on Apple Watch. Apple’s watch faces all have black backgrounds, as does the rest of the Apple Watch interface. That’s because Apple Watch has an OLED display, which doesn’t need to turn on pixels to show black — it’s a design aesthetic and an energy-saving move. (Update: I didn’t mean to imply here that Android Wear watches don’t use OLED displays, too — but clearly the Android Wear UI was not designed with black backgrounds in mind.)

  • Third-party watch faces for Pebble are generally terrible, even considering the constraints of the Pebble Watch display. This might improve with the upcoming Pebble Time, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.


I just can’t see Apple ever allowing these sort of watch faces for Apple Watch — that’ll be left for the jailbreak crowd. A few weeks ago I thought third-party watch faces would be like third-party apps were for the iPhone — something that wasn’t there at the launch, but which came sooner rather than later. Having spent three weeks with Apple Watch, I feel differently now. Apps are the apps of Apple Watch — that’s where there will be thousands of third-party designs. Watch Faces are different. They’re more fundamental to the device.

Apple will almost certainly introduce more built-in faces eventually, including some that allow for more personalization. In September, they showed two that have since been removed: Timelapse (they showed two options: one with Big Ben and Parliament at night in London; the other showed a scenic lake and mountain) and Photo (which, in Apple’s press materials, showed a snapshot of friends at a beach).1 And they might work with hand-selected partners like Disney to create additional faces like the Mickey one. But I don’t think they’re ever going to open the gates to App Store-style “anyone can make a watch face” watch faces. I think Apple sees watch faces as part of the system, like the lock and home screens for iOS. We’re eight years into iOS and there still isn’t any support for third-party lock or home screens. I expect the same thing for watch faces. 


  1. It seems pretty obvious why Apple nixed these two faces: they’re the ones that use the most energy on an OLED display. Just about every compromise I’ve noticed in Apple Watch OS 1.0 is in the service of extending battery life at all costs. ↩︎


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