Linked List: September 2016

David Wondrich: ‘How Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey Lost Its Way’ 

David Wondrich:

Scan a menu in a craft cocktail bar and it’s a lead-pipe cinch you’ll find something on it made with rye — straight rye whiskey, that is, made right here in the United States. For drinkers under, say, 35, it’s even a given. But those of us older than that can recall the days when if you asked for a rye Manhattan they would give you something made with Canadian “rye,” which oddly enough can be made with no rye in it at all. Indeed, things got so bad that the whole category almost completely disappeared. The troubles really began at the turn of the century with World War I and Prohibition on the horizon and then they only got worse.

The story of Old Overholt, which I began in my last column, is really the story of the whole Mid-Atlantic rye whiskey industry, and of industrial America. The rise, the fall and the rebirth — it’s a history that to my knowledge has never been fully explored and needs to be for this style of whiskey to be more than a fad. Here is the full unabridged story of how rye whiskey, our first indigenous distilled spirit (it goes back to 1648) almost became a footnote in American history.

Fascinating story. I love rye whiskey (particularly in an Old-Fashioned), but I didn’t know any of this history.

The Omni Group Is Moving to Free Apps With In-App Purchases 

Ken Case, The Omni Group:

The underlying problem, as noted above, is that downloading the app has a fixed cost. We’ve always set that cost to be the standard price of our app, leaving us no way to charge less. But what if we take a fresh look at this problem, and make our downloads free? You know, like every iPhone app in the Top Grossing List has already done? It’s not that they don’t sell anything — or they wouldn’t be on that list. They just don’t sell the original download. (Which we’ve never done on our own store either.)

With the original download free, we can implement any pricing options we want to offer customers through In-App Purchases. We can offer our standard unlocks of Standard and Pro, of course. But we can also offer a free 2-week trial which unlocks all of the features of Pro and Standard, letting you freely choose between them. We can offer a discounted upgrade to the new Standard. And we can offer free upgrades to the new versions to any customers who recently purchased the old app.

Well, I’m pleased to share that that’s exactly what we’re going to do — starting next month, with the App Store edition of OmniGraffle 7.

This is the future of productivity apps in the App Store.

A nifty side-effect of this change:

As a bonus, this free download of the app now also works as a free document viewer. You don’t have to buy anything to use the app as a document viewer; you can just dismiss the licensing dialog — in which case you’ll only be able to open documents in read-only mode. This means that our customers can send OmniGraffle documents to anyone who has a Mac, knowing that they’ll be able to download the latest OmniGraffle for free and view those documents.

USA Today’s Editorial Board: Trump Is ‘Unfit for the Presidency’ 

USA Today:

In the 34-year history of USA Today, the Editorial Board has never taken sides in the presidential race. Instead, we’ve expressed opinions about the major issues and haven’t presumed to tell our readers, who have a variety of priorities and values, which choice is best for them. Because every presidential race is different, we revisit our no-endorsement policy every four years. We’ve never seen reason to alter our approach. Until now.

This year, the choice isn’t between two capable major party nominees who happen to have significant ideological differences. This year, one of the candidates — Republican nominee Donald Trump — is, by unanimous consensus of the Editorial Board, unfit for the presidency.

It really speaks volumes that a newspaper that has never endorsed a candidate for president in its history would see fit to speak out so vociferously. In the same way that whitespace can amplify a message in graphic design, USA Today’s decades of political neutrality amplifies their message against Trump. This is not a normal election.

See also: The Arizona Republic:

Since The Arizona Republic began publication in 1890, we have never endorsed a Democrat over a Republican for president. Never. This reflects a deep philosophical appreciation for conservative ideals and Republican principles.

This year is different.

The 2016 Republican candidate is not conservative and he is not qualified.

I don’t know how much effect any newspaper endorsement has on election results, but these ought to be more effective than Clinton endorsements from traditionally liberal editorial boards like those of The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Yours Truly on Jeff Veen’s ‘Presentable’ Podcast 

Jeff Veen has a (relatively) new podcast about design called Presentable. He was kind enough to have me as his guest this week. I’ve known Jeff for a long time, and have always considered him one of the most thoughtful people in the business. I really thought that came across in his questions for me, and our discussion.

The Ill-Fated Tale of Phoneys, the Stupid Little Sticker Pack That Went #1 on the App Store 

Adam Howell:

Wednesday night of this week, John Gruber wrote, “This is very clever, and I can see how it could be damn funny, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Phoneys gets pulled from the App Store.” Shortly after John’s post — I mean, you can’t buy press better than that, a post from Gruber about $.99 stickers so clever that Apple was sure to pull them? — Phoneys, the stupid little sticker pack I’d launched just a few days before, climbed to #1 Top Paid and #1 Top Grossing in the iMessage app store.

Thursday night, last night, Bill from Apple called me.

Interesting that Apple is giving him a week to change the sticker style. But I really think Apple had no choice. The idea of Phoneys is fun, but I don’t think Apple should allow pranks like this in the App Store.

iPhone 7 Plus Depth Effect Is Legit 

Stu Maschwitz has a thoughtful, smart, and well-illustrated piece on the iPhone 7 Plus’s Portrait mode:

So don’t ask if Depth Effect is perfect. A better question is if its failures are distracting. And I have certainly taken some test photos where they are. But the funny thing about test photos is that there’s often nothing worth photographing in them, so you just stare at the problems. In my own testing, whenever I’ve pointed Portrait Mode at something I actually care about, the results have been solid.

So back to the question of whether we should care about a fake blur applied in post to a telephone photo. When I tweeted the above shot, someone replied with a reasonable question: wouldn’t I love the photo just as much without the effect? I replied no, and added:

Composition matters, and focus is composition in depth.

Portrait Mode photos aren’t just photos with a blur applied. They have the potential to be photos that are more about what they are photos of. It gets back to one of the oldest, most durable posts on this site: Less is More. We frame our shots carefully, and shallow depth of field allows us to frame our shots in depth as well.

Sometimes that makes the photo prettier. Often, it can make the photo.

Cliff? What Cliff? I Don’t See Any Cliff. 

Then Co-CEO of BlackBerry-maker RIM, in 2010, responding to Steve Jobs’s claim that the iPhone had passed BlackBerry in sales and he didn’t see them ever catching up:

For those of us who live outside of Apple’s distortion field, we know that 7-inch tablets will actually be a big portion of the market and we know that Adobe Flash support actually matters to customers who want a real web experience. We also know that while Apple’s attempt to control the ecosystem and maintain a closed platform may be good for Apple, developers want more options and customers want to fully access the overwhelming majority of web sites that use Flash. We think many customers are getting tired of being told what to think by Apple. And by the way, RIM has achieved record shipments for five consecutive quarters and recently shared guidance of 13.8 — 14.4 million BlackBerry smartphones for the current quarter.

This is what happens when a technology company is run by executives who don’t understand the underlying technology. Every single thing Balsillie wrote here was either wrong or shortsighted. Everything. Smaller tablets? Apple came out with the iPad Mini in 2012. Apple wasn’t first but they didn’t have to be. Adobe Flash is now dead on all mobile platforms, and it’s dying on the desktop. And worst of all, equating then-current sales strength with a bright future.

From the DF Archive: ‘BlackBerry vs. iPhone’ in 2008 

In light of BlackBerry’s decision this week to stop making hardware, it’s worth revisiting what is probably the best long-term prediction I’ve ever made on Daring Fireball:’ calling BlackBerry “doomed” in May 2008. Hindsight is 20-20, but this wasn’t a popular call in early 2008. At the time, the original iPhone was only 10 months old, and we were still a few months away from the iPhone 3G. Based on sales alone, BlackBerry looked very strong in 2008 — BlackBerry would more than triple their 2008 revenue in 2011. But their eventual decline and demise was inevitable.

BlackBerry was good at making computer-like gadgets; the iPhone was a gadget-like computer. If you could see that difference, and had a sense for just how difficult it would be for BlackBerry to gain expertise in computing hardware and software (in particular, creating a platform for apps), you could see just how much trouble they were in even though they had a handful of go-go sales years ahead of them.

Survey Suggests Strong Demand for Apple’s AirPods 

Kif Leswing, writing for Business Insider:

12 percent of U.S. consumers surveyed by Bank of America Merrill Lynch say they intend to purchase AirPods, apparently on the strength of Apple’s marketing, given that few people have actually seen and tried them out.

This is a very bullish sign for Apple, says BAML. “12 percent of the US installed base could lead to up to an incremental $3bn in revenue,” writes the analysts.

Not 12 percent of iPhone owners. 12 percent of consumers. For a product that Apple has merely announced, but not yet even started advertising. That’s huge. It’s just a survey, so take it with a grain of salt, but anecdotally, I get stopped almost every day here in Philadelphia by people asking if my review unit AirPods are in fact AirPods. (They usually ask if they’re “the new wireless headphones from Apple”.) It’s happened to me at least a dozen times in the last two weeks. It started on the airplane on my flight home the day after the Apple event. Consumer awareness of this product is off the charts.

Compare this buzz to Apple’s other big wearable launch in the last two years, the Apple Watch. Apple recently subtly updated the device, dubbing the new version “Watch Series 2.” But the upgrade doesn’t seem to have generated as much demand as the AirPods.

“Only a small portion of respondents own the Watch Series 1 [sic] and only 8 percent of respondents intend to buy the Watch Series 2,” the analysts wrote in a note distributed to clients. […]

Perhaps Apple’s top brass in Cupertino should focus its wearable attention on its new headphones.

8 percent is indeed less than 12, but I don’t get the spin from Leswing that this number is somehow disappointing — or even the “only” in Bank of America’s report. If 8 percent of U.S. consumers buy a Series 2 Apple Watch, that’s huge.

Also: I think Apple has its typically high profit margins on Apple Watch. At $159, I think the margins on AirPods are very low. Maybe even break-even territory.

And lastly: Keep in mind that a lot of people quite logically think that AirPods only work with the iPhone 7. Consumer awareness of Apple removing the headphone jack from the iPhone 7 is insanely high, and it’s logical to think that Apple’s first wireless ear buds are directly tied to that decision. But AirPods actually work perfectly with any device running iOS 10. Once more people know this, demand should go up.

Shake Shack Founder Danny Meyer Introducing Apple Watch to the Hospitality Industry 

Daniela Galarza, reporting for Eater:

When Meyer’s 30-year-old Union Square Cafe reopens in Manhattan next month, every floor manager and sommelier will be wearing an Apple Watch. And when a VIP walks through the front door, someone orders a bottle of wine, a new table is seated, a guest waits too long to order her or his drink, or a menu item runs out, every manager will get an alert via the tiny computer attached to their wrist.

It took a few years for the full potential of the iPhone to surface as an app platform. The same is proving true for Apple Watch. This system sounds very clever — and discreet.

Financial Times: ‘Spotify in Advanced Talks to Buy SoundCloud’ 

Matthew Garrahan, Madhumita Murgia, and James Fontanella-Khan, reporting for the FT:

Spotify, the music streaming service, is in advanced talks to acquire SoundCloud, as competition heats up with Apple for the future of digital music, said people briefed on the discussions.

SoundCloud, which raised $100m in June from a group of investors including Twitter, was last valued at about $700m. […]

A deal between Spotify and SoundCloud, two of Europe’s top tech start-ups, comes as Silicon Valley titans such as Apple and Amazon have recently launched their own music streaming services, forcing independent players to consolidate to survive.

On paper this seems like a good match. Spotify is the leader in streaming music, but their library is based on acts signed to major record labels. SoundCloud has a strong foothold with indie music acts (although they’re not paying them), but their own streaming service can’t compete with Spotify, Apple Music, et al on major record label content.

NYT: ‘Defending Against Hackers Took a Back Seat at Yahoo, Insiders Say’ 

Nicole Perlroth and Vindu Goel, reporting for the NYT:

[Alex Stamos, Yahoo’s former chief information security officer], also dispatched “red teams” of employees to break into Yahoo’s systems and report back what they found. At competitors like Apple and Google, the Yahoo Paranoids developed a reputation for their passion and contributions to collaborative security projects, like Threat Exchange, a platform created by Yahoo, Dropbox, Facebook, Pinterest and others to share information on cyberthreats.

But when it came time to commit meaningful dollars to improve Yahoo’s security infrastructure, Ms. Mayer repeatedly clashed with Mr. Stamos, according to the current and former employees. She denied Yahoo’s security team financial resources and put off proactive security defenses, including intrusion-detection mechanisms for Yahoo’s production systems. Over the last few years, employees say, the Paranoids have been routinely hired away by competitors like Apple, Facebook and Google.

Mr. Stamos, who departed Yahoo for Facebook last year, declined to comment. But during his tenure, Ms. Mayer also rejected the most basic security measure of all: an automatic reset of all user passwords, a step security experts consider standard after a breach. Employees say the move was rejected by Ms. Mayer’s team for fear that even something as simple as a password change would drive Yahoo’s shrinking email users to other services.

The Times’s sources are really throwing Mayer under the bus. Sounds like it might be deserved, but man, this is brutal. This report has prompted a “What did Yahoo know and when did they know it?” inquiry from Senator Pat Leahy.

Rene Ritchie on Apple’s iMessage Metadata Logs 

Rene Ritchie, writing for iMore:

My understanding is that, at some point, Apple’s iMessage engineers decided they needed to keep a metadata log in order to detect and fix problems with iMessage dispatch. […]

Doing dispatch properly is hard, and so engineers did what engineers do, and started collecting data to try and make it better. Because of privacy concerns, though, they only keep that data live for 30 days.

In other words, the logs are there for troubleshooting problems like when you switch a phone number from iOS to Android and iMessage users are still trying to send you iMessages instead of SMS messages.

30 days still seems like a long time to me, but I agree this is not surprising. And even if Apple didn’t keep these logs, they could be required to start keeping them under court order.

Phoneys 

Sarah Perez:

Got iOS 10? Want to mess with your friends? A hilarious new iMessage App called Phoneys lets you prank others by sending stickers that look exactly like iMessage text bubbles. And thanks to the new layering feature in the updated version of iMessage, you can place these stickers — which say things like “My political views are totally wrong” or “I have terrible taste in music” — overtop your friend’s message to make it look like they texted these self-deprecating statements to you.

Yep, you can actually put words in your friend’s mouth, then laugh while they try to figure out if they’ve lost their mind, or their phone has been hacked.

This is very clever, and I can see how it could be damn funny, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Phoneys gets pulled from the App Store.

iMessage Contact Lookups Are Stored by Apple for 30 Days 

Sam Biddle, writing for The Intercept:

Every time you type a number into your iPhone for a text conversation, the Messages app contacts Apple servers to determine whether to route a given message over the ubiquitous SMS system, represented in the app by those déclassé green text bubbles, or over Apple’s proprietary and more secure messaging network, represented by pleasant blue bubbles, according to the document. Apple records each query in which your phone calls home to see who’s in the iMessage system and who’s not.

This log also includes the date and time when you entered a number, along with your IP address — which could, contrary to a 2013 Apple claim that “we do not store data related to customers’ location,” identify a customer’s location. Apple is compelled to turn over such information via court orders for systems known as “pen registers” or “trap and trace devices,” orders that are not particularly onerous to obtain, requiring only that government lawyers represent they are “likely” to obtain information whose “use is relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation.” Apple confirmed to The Intercept that it only retains these logs for a period of 30 days, though court orders of this kind can typically be extended in additional 30-day periods, meaning a series of monthlong log snapshots from Apple could be strung together by police to create a longer list of whose numbers someone has been entering.

It shouldn’t be surprising that Messages does a lookup on each phone number and email address you attempt to send an iMessage to. If there wasn’t some sort of directory lookup, how would the messages get routed? Here’s Apple’s own description, from their iOS Security Guide (page 41):

Users start a new iMessage conversation by entering an address or name. If they enter a phone number or email address, the device contacts the IDS to retrieve the public keys and APNs addresses for all of the devices associated with the addressee. If the user enters a name, the device first utilizes the user’s Contacts app to gather the phone numbers and email addresses associated with that name, then gets the public keys and APNs addresses from the IDS.

IDS is Apple’s directory service. What’s unclear is why Apple is keeping a log of these lookups for 30 days. Biddle’s article, and the leaked law enforcement document upon which his reporting is based, only mentions phone numbers, but I think it’s almost certainly the case that the same information is logged for email address Apple IDs. Also worth pointing out: these logs don’t even indicate whether the sender ever communicated with the receiver — only that they looked up that phone number or email address in Messages. You know when you type a phone number in the To: field in Messages and it turns from green to blue? That’s the lookup that gets logged.

Maybe I’m missing something but it seems like Apple would be better off flushing these logs at much shorter intervals. The only reason I can think of to log them is for fraud detection — to aid in identifying bad players who are attempting to spam a list of Apple IDs. There must be a better way to do that.

Update: This didn’t occur to me yesterday, but a few readers have suggested that these 30-day logs could be useful when investigating claims of abuse.

Zero Day: ‘How One Amazon Kindle Scam Made Millions of Dollars’ 

Fascinating exposé by Zack Whittaker, reporting for Zero Day:

Moore was just one of hundreds of pseudonyms employed in a sophisticated “catfishing” scheme run by Valeriy Shershnyov, whose Vancouver-based business hoodwinked Amazon customers into buying low-quality ebooks, which were boosted on the online marketplace by an unscrupulous system of bots, scripts, and virtual servers.

Catfishing isn’t new — it’s been well documented. Some scammers buy fake reviews, while others will try other ways to game the system.

Until now, nobody has been able to look inside at how one of these scams work — especially one that’s been so prolific, generating millions of dollars in royalties by cashing in on unwitting buyers who are tricked into thinking these ebooks have some substance.

Shershnyov was able to stay in Amazon’s shadows for two years by using his scam server conservatively so as to not raise any red flags.

What eventually gave him away weren’t customer complaints or even getting caught by the bookseller. It was good old-fashioned carelessness. He forgot to put a password on his server.

Sounds like it’s time for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate iBooks again.

Apple to Create Stunning New London Headquarters at Battersea Power Station 

Jonathan Prynn, reporting for The London Evening Standard:

Apple is to create a spectacular new London headquarters at Battersea Power Station in a massive coup for the developers behind the £9 billion project.

The iPhone and iPad maker will move 1,400 staff from eight sites around the capital into what it calls “a new Apple campus” at the Grade II* listed former electricity generator.

Its employees will occupy all six floors of office space in the brick “cathedral of power”, which is being painstakingly restored after 33 years standing derelict on the banks of the Thames.

Looks like a majestic building at a great location.

*Update: I knew I’d seen it before. Battersea Power Station is the building on the cover of Pink Floyd’s Animals.

Michael Tsai’s Mac Terminal Tips 

I wasn’t aware of any of these shortcuts.

Update: If you liked this, you’ll love this 2014 list of Terminal tricks and tips from Craig Hockenberry.

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Issues Warning Regarding Samsung Washing Machine Explosions 

Jill Disis, reporting for CNN Money:

The warning comes more than a month after Samsung was hit with a federal class-action lawsuit by customers who said their machines had exploded during use.

Customers in Texas, Georgia and Indiana all said they were washing clothes when they heard a violent boom. A washer belonging to a McAllen, Texas, woman “exploded with such ferocity that it penetrated the interior wall of her garage,” according to court filings. A woman in Dallas, Georgia, said it felt and sounded as if “a bomb went off.”

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in New Jersey, references similar reports collected by local news and filed online with regulators. It also claims Samsung “has moved aggressively to collect and destroy all evidence of the defective machines” after they exploded.

It’s the lawsuit filed by these people claiming their washing machines exploded that claims Samsung “has moved aggressively to collect and destroy all evidence of the defective machines”, not the Consumer Product Safety Commission, but that’s a pretty serious allegation. Rough month for Samsung.

BlackBerry Misses Sales Estimates; Stops Making Smartphones 

The end of an era. There still will be BlackBerry-branded handsets, but they’ll be made and distributed by other companies.

Aetna to Subsidize Apple Watch for Its Health Insurance Customers 

Aetna press release:

Aetna today announced a new initiative to revolutionize members’ consumer health experience by combining the power of iOS apps and the unmatched user experience of Apple products including Apple Watch, iPhone and iPad with Aetna’s analytics-based wellness and care management programs. Beginning this fall, Aetna will make Apple Watch available to select large employers and individual customers during open enrollment season, and Aetna will be the first major health care company to subsidize a significant portion of the Apple Watch cost, offering monthly payroll deductions to make covering the remaining cost easier.

In addition to the customer program, Aetna will provide Apple Watch at no cost to its own nearly 50,000 employees, who will participate in the company’s wellness reimbursement program, to encourage them to live more productive, healthy lives.

Seems like this could be a big deal. Beth Mole, reporting for Ars Technica:

In a statement to Ars, Aetna spokesperson Ethan Slavin said that Aetna will be working directly with Apple to develop a suite of healthcare apps for Aetna customers. “Apple will have employees devoted to providing support to Aetna on this initiative,” he wrote, and “Aetna will also have a dedicated employee unit focused on this collaboration.” Slavin was mum on whether the apps would be developed using CareKit, however.

Serenity Caldwell’s Apple Watch Series 2 Review 

Speaking of Serenity Caldwell, her Apple Watch Series 2 review is incredibly detailed, and includes a good video (shot entirely with iPhone 7).

The Talk Show: ‘You’ve Got the Nubbin’ 

Serenity Caldwell returns to the show to discuss Apple’s new stuff: the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, Apple Watch Series 2 (and the semi-new Series 1), iOS 10, MacOS Sierra, and more. Or as she describes it: “In which @gruber and I grumble about Watch restores and obsess over a whole bunch of photos on an audio-only podcast.”

Sponsored by:

  • Fracture: Your pictures, printed directly on glass. Great gift idea.
  • Backblaze: Online backup for $5/month. Native. Unlimited. Unthrottled. Uncomplicated.
  • Automatic: Your smart driving assistant. The best dingus you’ll ever buy for your car. Save $20 with this link.
Úll 2016 

Úll:

Úll is a conference for people who build and love great products. We focus on great product stories, presented through an Apple-shaped lens. We treat the conference itself as a product: with a deep emphasis on the attendee experience.

Úll 2016 will explore that very Apple-y of ideas: thinking different.

November 1-2 in Killarney, Ireland. Úll is one of the best conferences I’ve ever attended — probably the best. It’s beautiful, smart, friendly, and fun. If you can make it, go.

Rich Trouton on iCloud Desktop and Documents in MacOS Sierra 

Great piece by Rich Trouton exploring the details of how iCloud Desktop and Document syncing works. He makes a good point here:

Currently, Apple provides 5 GB of storage space for free for iCloud users. That 5 GB of storage includes storage for your iCloud email, your iCloud backups for your iOS device(s), your iCloud Photo library and iCloud Drive. If you need more than 5GBs of storage space, you have to pay for it.

Considering that most folks likely have more than 5 GB of files stored in their home folder’s Documents directory, let alone their Desktop folder, there are immediate issues with enabling iCloud Desktop and Documents syncing if you’re not paying Apple for sufficient iCloud storage space.

It’s easy for me to say that Apple should give all iCloud users a lot more free storage, and I know that the company is on a “We make money from services” kick this year. But they’re the ones who keep adding new features to iCloud that require significantly more storage space.

iCloud Photo Library vs. iCloud’s 5 GB Free Storage Tier 

Rui Carmo:

There is just no sane way to archive iCloud photos on your Mac once you’ve gone past the baseline 5 GB. None whatsoever. Zip. Nada.

Photos, like iPhoto before it, remains stubbornly autistic where it regards managing multiple photo libraries — it’s possible, but fiddly, error-prone and utterly incomprehensible to the average user.

And, more to the point, there is no way to move photos directly from one library to another. This last bit, as far as I’m concerned, is inexcusable.

Right now, the only sane way to cope seems to setup a smart folder inside Photos for items older than a given threshold and manually export (and then delete) originals from that — which renders all of your nice metadata useless. […]

Apple ought to build in to Photos an archival feature that allowed me to export items from my iCloud library to an archival one on my Mac, prompting me to do so upon reaching, say, 75% of my iCloud capacity (or another set threshold) to make things easier for the average user.

That archival process would create, say, an archive bundle per year, and copy across all the metadata and album associations you’ve painstakingly defined in Photos.

You’d then be free to move those around to backup storage at will, and clicking upon an archive would launch Photos with the archive temporarily open in the sidebar so you could move things back and forth.

Carmo makes some good points in this piece, but I think he’s conflating two different issues:

  1. 5 GB of storage is not enough, and most people are never going to budge from the free tier. 50 GB for just $1 a month is a good deal, but there are way too many people who just won’t budge from “free”, no matter how cumbersome the 5 GB limit makes their life. Surely Apple will eventually increase the storage capacity of the free tier; the sooner they do so, and the larger they make it, the better.

  2. Photos should make it easier to deal with very large libraries.

Carmo is focused on #2. I think #1 is the more pressing problem. I bet the number one reason people find they need multiple libraries in Photos is because they’re bumping up against their iCloud storage limit.

Daring Fireball RSS Feed Sponsorship Fall Schedule 

Just a few weeks left on the DF sponsorship schedule this year: one in October, two in November, and one in December. And: this current week.

Get in touch if you’ve got a cool product or service to promote, and check out the list of all previous sponsors to see how many of them have come back for repeat sponsorships.

Bloomberg: ‘Disney Is Working With an Adviser on Potential Twitter Bid’ 

Alex Sherman and Sarah Frier, reporting for Bloomberg:

The Walt Disney Co. is working with a financial adviser to evaluate a possible bid for Twitter Inc., according to people familiar with the matter. After receiving interest in discussing a deal, Twitter has started a process to evaluate a potential sale. Salesforce.com Inc. is also considering a bid, working with Bank of America on the process, according to other people, who declined to be named because the matter is private.

Nick Bilton, on Twitter:

From (high-up) people I’ve spoken to internally at Twitter, I’ve always heard Disney is the dream suitor.

Don’t think of Disney as the Mickey Mouse/theme park company. Think of Disney as the media conglomerate that owns ESPN and ABC and which just acquired a 33 percent stake streaming media giant BAMTech. Twitter is a media company and a publishing service, not a social network.

MG Siegler on Snap’s Spectacles 

MG Siegler:

First and foremost, the very direct framing of Spectacles as a toy is smart. Under-promise, over-deliver 101. As many have noted, basically the opposite of Google Glass. Partially as a result of the stigma around that product, Snap had a very tight rope to walk here. But I think they’re going to pull it off because we already have the answer to the questions that will pop up to wearers.

Beware Desktop and Documents Folder Syncing on MacOS Sierra 

Josh Marshall had a really bad experience with the new Desktop and Documents folder iCloud syncing feature in Sierra:

So today at work I had Sierra start syncing my work Desktop and Documents folders. Later I checked in iCloud and there it all was. Awesome.

What I didn’t see were my Desktop files from my home computer. That was odd because I’d upgraded to Sierra at home the night before. So why hadn’t it worked from home?

When I got home I checked to see if I’d enabled this syncing operation on my home machine. I hadn’t. So I checked the box to enable it. But when I did it said I had too many files or too many nested folders to use this service. I poked around on Google to find out about this because I hadn’t seen any reference to any storage limits. I couldn’t find any information about this. So I moved some files off my desktop to see if I could get under whatever this limit I was bumping up against.

After moving a bunch of files, I tried again. Success! It let me do it. Then in a flash all the files on my desktop disappeared and were replaced by the files from my work desktop.

It sounds like his files weren’t vanished — they were moved to a sub-folder of the iCloud Desktop folder. But it sure looked like his files were vanished. From Ars Technica’s Sierra review:

Enable iCloud Desktop and Documents on a second Mac you’ve upgraded to Sierra, one that already has files in its Desktop and Documents folders, and you will momentarily panic, as all of your existing files are removed and replaced with the “canonical” iCloud versions. But don’t worry; everything that was already on your desktop has been moved to a subfolder in the iCloud Desktop folder named “Desktop — [Name of Mac].” From there, move files around however you want to reconcile the desktops on your Macs. […]

It takes a while for your Mac to upload all your files into iCloud the first time you turn it on — the service seems reluctant to overload your Mac or to completely saturate your Internet connection, both of which can easily happen while syncing a service like Dropbox for the first time. Going to the iCloud Drive folder in the Finder will give you status updates as well as show you how much storage space you have left in your iCloud account.

So it’s not so much that the feature is dangerous but that the experience of enabling it on a second Mac is really poorly designed. When you enable it on a Mac when there’s already an existing iCloud Desktop folder, there should be some sort of dialog that explains exactly what’s going to happen.

iFixit’s Pro Tech Toolkit 

My thanks to iFixit for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their new Pro Tech Toolkit. It’s a set of tools specifically designed for modern electronics repair. They sent me one a few weeks ago and it is excellent. Even the case is nice. It has every little oddball screwdriver you might need. Last year the Apple Watch came out with a new tri-point screw, smaller than anything iFixit had seen before. Now their toolkit contains a screwdriver for that screw — which is also now used in the iPhone 7.

I actually have an older iFixit toolkit (I think I might have picked it up at a Macworld Expo, years ago?), and this new one is better in every way. These are just damn good tools. Check out iFixit’s recent teardowns of the latest phones from Apple and Samsung, and, if you’re interested in the toolkit, use coupon code “courage” (ha!) and you’ll save $5.

Snapchat Releases First Hardware Product, Spectacles 

Seth Stevenson, writing for the WSJ:

In an unmarked building on a quiet side street just off the beach in Venice, California, 26-year-old Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel stands in a small conference room. He’s draped a towel over a mysterious object sitting on a table. He is eager to the point of jitters.

“You wanna see it?” he asks, grinning widely. There’s drama in this reveal: I’m about to join an exceedingly small circle of people whom Spiegel has shown the object to. As he lifts the towel, he breaks into a delighted laugh. “Boom!”

What initially appears to be a normal pair of sunglasses turns out to be Spectacles, the first hardware product from Snap Inc., as the firm has been newly christened (Spiegel is refreshing the company name because its offerings now go beyond the Snapchat app). When you slip Spectacles on and tap a button near the hinge, it records up to 10 seconds of video from your first-person vantage. Each new tap records another clip.

Uh, those do not appear to be a “normal pair of sunglasses”.

Keith Olbermann: ‘Vin Scully Is a Legend, but He’s Not a Saint’ 

Keith Olbermann, writing for GQ, has the best appraisal of the retiring Vin Scully I’ve seen:

It is mind-bending to consider that he has not just been on 22 of the 94 annual radio and television World Series broadcasts ever, but been alive for 87 of them. It is goose-bumpy to recognize that the season he began broadcasting major league games, Connie Mack was still the manager of the Philadelphia Athletics (Mack had become A’s manager in 1901 and we’ve just passed the 130th anniversary of Mack’s debut as a major league catcher). And it almost requires the language of Light Years to realize that if you start a new job the day after his last scheduled regular-season Dodger broadcast and you stay in that gig as long as Scully has in his, you will not be leaving your new position until Sunday, September 26, 2083.

You will also have to be almost flawless at that job over these next 67 years. Lost in the pilgrimages and the longevity is the reality that unlike almost every other great broadcaster in any field and of any time, there is not only no long list of Scullyian Gaffes, there is almost no list. Amid the Kirk Gibson call, and the Bill Buckner call, and the Hank Aaron call, and the Larsen Perfect Game call, and the Koufax perfect game call — there just aren’t many mistakes.

I’ve been watching as many of his calls for the Dodgers down the stretch as I can. At 88 years old he’s still the best there is.

CNBC: ‘Twitter May Soon Get Formal Bid, Suitors Said to Include Salesforce and Google’ 

David Faber and Anita Balakrishnan, reporting for CNBC:

Twitter shares surged Friday after sources said the ailing social media company moved closer to being sold.

The sources said the company has received expressions of interest from several technology or media companies and may receive a formal bid shortly. The potential suitors include Google and Salesforce.com, among other technology companies, sources said.

The news was taken seriously enough that Twitter’s share price closed up 21 percent for the day. If this happens, I sure hope it’s Salesforce that buys them, not Google. Why? Just a gut feeling that Salesforce would be less likely to screw Twitter up. I could be completely wrong on that, though.

The Curious Case of Chris Ziegler’s Employment at The Verge and Apple 

Nilay Patel:

Hey everyone — there have been questions about Chris Ziegler and his absence from The Verge in the past few weeks. I want to provide answers for those who have been worried about him.

First, Chris accepted a position at Apple. We wish him well. […]

Chris began working for Apple in July, but didn’t tell anyone at The Verge that he’d taken a new job until we discovered and verified his dual-employment in early September. Chris continued actively working at The Verge in July, but was not in contact with us through most of August and into September. During that period, in the dark and concerned for Chris, we made every effort to contact him and to offer him help if needed. We ultimately terminated his employment at The Verge and Vox Media the same day we verified that he was employed at Apple.

This is really bizarre. Obviously The Verge can’t have staff members simultaneously working for one of the companies they cover, but surely Apple would consider this just as much of a conflict of interest as The Verge would.

No word on what Ziegler is (or was? — several little birdies have told me Ziegler is not listed in the company directory) doing at Apple. And Ziegler’s Twitter account has been silent since August 8.

iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Examples 

I installed the first developer beta of iOS 10.1 on my iPhone 7 Plus review unit, and shot a bunch of portraits on the walk home from school with my son yesterday. Here they are on Flickr, each with its corresponding image without the depth effect applied. Some of them look great, most look pretty good, and at least two of them have serious problems.

MotionMark: A New Graphics Benchmark From the WebKit Team 

Jon Lee, Said Abou-Hallawa, and Simon Fraser:

Today, we are pleased to introduce MotionMark, a new graphics benchmark for web browsers.

We’ve seen the web grow in amazing ways, making it a rich platform capable of running complex web apps, rendering beautiful web pages, and providing user experiences that are fast, responsive, and visibly smooth. With the development and wide adoption of web standards like CSS animations, SVG, and HTML5 canvas, it’s easier than ever for a web author to create an engaging and sophisticated experience. Since these technologies rely on the performance of the browser’s graphics system, we created this benchmark to put it to the test.

We’d like to talk about how the benchmark works, how it has helped us improve the performance of WebKit, and what’s in store for the future.

Some of the tests are pretty enough to be screensavers.

How Hampton Creek Sold Silicon Valley on a Fake-Mayo Miracle 

Olivia Zaleski, Peter Waldman, and Ellen Huet, writing for Bloomberg Businessweek:

In January 2014 a Creeker on the West Coast, who asked not to be identified, received an assignment in an e-mail under the subject line “Secret Shopper Squad Stores.” She was directed to buy 20 bottles a week of Just Mayo from each Whole Foods store in a large territory. […]

After the secret purchases, the e-mail instructed, she should open one or two bottles at home to check for quality — specifically, whether the mayonnaise had separated. If the jars were all right, she could donate the rest to a food bank or give it to friends. “Do not return them to Whole Foods,” the e-mail said. It also included a link to a quality-assurance survey the Creeker was supposed to fill out for each store. But no one noticed when she didn’t do it. Within weeks she had bought so much Just Mayo that her friends and local food banks couldn’t handle any more, so she began dumping it. She spent almost $12,000 purchasing the product, she says, and she could tell the buybacks had nothing to do with quality control. “But I really didn’t think about it because I cared so much about the cause.”

With the buyback program in full swing, Tetrick celebrated the product’s success. “Wow! Some @WholeFoods are selling 100+ jars of #justmayo/day,” he tweeted on Jan. 30. Four months later, a company tweet said: “Proud to announce that #justmayo is now the #1 selling mayo at @wholefoods.”

This is just outright fraud, and Tetrick doubled down on it with his claims that the buy backs were only for the purposes of quality assurance.

Also, interesting interactive art direction on this story.

Yahoo Says Hackers Stole Data on 500 Million Users in 2014 

Nicole Perlroth, reporting for the NYT:

Yahoo announced on Thursday that the account information for at least 500 million users was stolen by hackers two years ago, in the biggest known intrusion of one company’s computer network.

In a statement, Yahoo said user information — including names, email addresses, telephone numbers, birth dates, passwords and, in some cases security questions — was compromised in 2014 by what it believed was a “state-sponsored actor.” It did not name the country involved.

The company said that it was working with law enforcement officials and that it was invalidating existing security questions and asking users to change their passwords. Yahoo also encouraged people to review other online accounts for suspicious activity, change passwords and security questions on those accounts, and watch out for suspicious emails.

Verizon, in midst of acquiring Yahoo, only found out about this two days ago. Not a good coda to Marissa Mayer’s tenure, to say the least.

Update: Also, doesn’t “500 million accounts” effectively mean all Yahoo accounts in 2014? How many accounts could there have been that weren’t stolen? They’re saying “500 million” but they really mean “They stole every account”. Right? Update: Here’s a report that claims Yahoo has 1 billion “monthly active users”, but even if true, that doesn’t mean every active user is signed into an account. Even if it’s not all accounts that were stolen, it has to be most.

Google Reneges on Allo Privacy Feature 

Russell Brandom, reporting for The Verge:

The version of Allo rolling out today will store all non-incognito messages by default — a clear change from Google’s earlier statements that the app would only store messages transiently and in non-identifiable form. The records will now persist until the user actively deletes them, giving Google default access to a full history of conversations in the app. Users can also avoid the logging by using Allo’s Incognito Mode, which is still fully end-to-end encrypted and unchanged from the initial announcement.

It would have been more surprising if Google had actually followed through on their promise for Allo message retention. And I still say “Incognito” is the wrong word. They should call it “Private”. Incognito carries a “What do you have to hide?” connotation. (I know Chrome uses the same word for private tabs, but I’d argue the same thing there — they should be called “private tabs”, like Safari does.)

Google wants to read and index your chats. It’s that simple.

According to Google, the change was made to improve the Allo assistant’s smart reply feature, which generates suggested responses to a given conversation. Like most machine learning systems, the smart replies work better with more data. As the Allo team tested those replies, they decided the performance boost from permanently stored messages was worth giving up privacy benefits of transient storage.

That’s a fair tradeoff, but it also shows very clearly who is in control at Google when it comes to features/advertising potential vs. user privacy debates. When has such a decision at Google ever erred on the side of privacy?

NYT: ‘Apple Is Said to Be Talking to Vehicle Technology Companies’ 

Daisuke Wakabayashi and Brian X. Chen, reporting for the NYT:

Apple has been talking with McLaren, the automaker known for its Formula One racecars, about an investment in the company, according to two people briefed on the talks who asked to remain anonymous because the discussions were confidential.

McLaren’s aforelinked denial is in the present tense — it doesn’t preclude previous or future discussions.

Apple is also in talks with Lit Motors, a San Francisco start-up that has developed an electric self-balancing motorcycle, about a potential acquisition, according to three people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the conversations were private. Apple has already hired several former Lit Motors engineers.

Even as many Silicon Valley companies, including Google, Tesla and Uber, have embarked on high-profile electric and driverless car initiatives, Apple has kept quiet. Yet internally, it has pursued a car project, called Project Titan, which has had ups and downs in leadership and direction. The layoffs at the project this month came after the appointment of an Apple veteran, Bob Mansfield, to take over the effort.

When did Daisuke Wakabayashi leave The Wall Street Journal for The Times? Must have been recently — he got the scoop for The Journal on Bob Mansfield taking over Project Titan just two months ago.

The Financial Times: ‘Apple in Talks on McLaren Supercars Takeover’ 

Matthew Garrahan and Tim Bradshaw, reporting for The Financial Times:

Apple has approached McLaren Technology Group, the British supercar engineer and Formula One team owner, about a potential acquisition, in the clearest sign yet that the iPhone maker is seeking to transform the automotive industry.

The California technology group, which has been working on a self-driving electric vehicle for more than two years, is considering a full takeover of McLaren or a strategic investment, according to three people briefed on the negotiations who said talks started several months ago.

Whether this goes through or not, one thing I’ve been thinking is that if Apple does do a car, it ought to be a beautiful car. McLaren makes drop-dead gorgeous cars.

Benjamin Zhang, Business Insider:

On Wednesday, the Financial Times reported that Apple has approached McLaren over a potential takeover or strategic investment. McLaren has officially denied that anything is happening.

“There’s no takeover, no strategic investment,” a McLaren spokesperson told Business Insider. “It’s completely untrue.”

Tim Bradshaw:

Obviously we stand by our story despite McLaren’s statement.

Hands on With the iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode 

Matthew Panzarino, after spending a few days with the still-in-beta Portrait mode on the iPhone 7 Plus:

If you’ve skipped here to see how the heck it works, I don’t blame you. The short answer: incredibly, miraculously well in many instances. And pretty rough in others. Apple says this is still in beta and it is. It has trouble with leaves, with chain link fences and patterns and with motion. But it also handles things so well that I never thought possible like fine children’s hair and dog fur, shooting pictures with people facing away and objects that are not people at all.

What does it have major trouble with? Fine lines, wires, chain link, glass, leaves. Anything that merges with the edges of your subject a bunch of times could confuse it. The closer to the subject the harder it is for it to distinguish. Motion, too, is a no. If the subject moves a bit, ok. If it moves too much you get ghosting, as you do in HDR mode — because there is compositing involved.

Some of the examples look very good, some not so much. There’s no doubt we’re going to see a lot of these shots on Instagram and Facebook. That said, the examples aren’t good enough to make me regret ordering a 4.7-inch 7 (jet black, natch) for my personal use.

Update: Upgraded my 7 Plus review unit to the 10.1 developer beta released today, and shot a bunch of Portrait mode photos on the walk home from school with my son. Some of them are great — good enough to make the decision to go with a regular 7 weigh a little heavier on my heart. And even when it doesn’t work well, you always get the regular photo without the depth effect side-by-side in your camera roll. You can’t lose a shot by trying it with Portrait mode.

Studio Neat Material Dock 

Even if you’re not in the market for an iPhone/Apple Watch charging dock, the video is worth watching.

Non-Blurry Photos of the Google Pixel and Pixel XL Leak 

iPhone 7 form factor largely resembles iPhone 6: terrible, Apple has lost its edge.

Google Pixel form factor largely resembles iPhone 6: crickets.

Dropbox’s MacOS Security Hack 

Back in July, Phil Stokes at AppleHelpWriter documented some downright awful behavior on the part of Dropbox on MacOS: Dropbox prompts for your admin password, then misuses that authority to inject itself into the list of apps with permission to “control your computer” in System Preferences’s Security & Privacy panel. If you remove it from the list manually, Dropbox re-injects itself the next time it launches.

If you’re still on El Capitan, Stokes has simple instructions for removing Dropbox from this list for good.

Even better: on MacOS Sierra, Apple has closed the loophole Dropbox was abusing to circumvent this.

Safari 10.0 

Now available, both for MacOS 10.12 (Sierra) and 10.11 (El Capitan). Safari is a great browser, period, but where it really shines is in its integration with MacOS as a whole: Safari 10.0 introduces Apple Pay support, picture-in-picture video playback, and a lot more.

‘Pile of Poo Gains a Thicker, More 3D Appearance in iOS 10’ 

Jeremy Burge has a detailed change log of the emoji additions and changes in iOS 10. (I believe all of these changes apply to MacOS 10.12 Sierra, as well.)

Flag: Free Photo Prints, Forever 

Remember Flag? It was a Kickstarter project from two years ago, where the idea was they’d make high-quality photo prints for you for free, with advertisements on the back of the prints. They’re back with a second Kickstarter campaign:

Huge demand for premium free prints means access to Flag is constrained by our limited production capacity. Back us now to help us purchase the equipment we need, lower costs, and deliver to more free prints, to more people, more effectively.

Free with Flag means no printing, shipping or handling fees. […]

Archival quality printers deliver eight times more detail using inks that won’t fade for up to 300 years. Flag prints on real German photo paper and doesn’t compress the images you upload in any way. Every Flag print is gallery ready.

Seven colors of ink, specially formulated eggshell paper, and 2,400 dpi print heads deliver deeper blacks, brighter whites and a wider range or rich color than the best traditional wet-chemistry lab prints.

The Kickstarter campaign is already fully funded, and the funding tiers are filling up quick. The “earlybird special” tier only has 21/1000 spots remaining, for example.

I still think the basic idea is genius: the ads allow the prints to be free of charge, but don’t distract from the prints at all because they’re on the back.

Dan Golding: ‘A Theory of Film Music’ 

Remember that episode of Every Frame a Painting I linked to the other day about the unmemorable scores of the Marvel universe movies? Dan Golding has responded with a video of his own, and it is amazing. (Among several things I learned: Hans Zimmer was in The Buggles!)

Very Important Update: Hans Zimmer was not a member of The Buggles, he simply appeared in their video for “Video Killed the Radio Star”.

Bloomberg: ‘Rush to Take Advantage of a Dull iPhone Started Samsung’s Battery Crisis’ 

Yoolim Lee and Min Jeong Lee, reporting for Bloomberg:

Few things motivate Samsung employees like the opportunity to take advantage of weakness at Apple Inc.

Earlier this year, managers at the South Korean company began hearing the next iPhone wouldn’t have any eye-popping innovations. The device would look just like the previous two models too. It sounded like a potential opening for Samsung to leap ahead.

So the top brass at Samsung Electronics Co., including phone chief D.J. Koh, decided to accelerate the launch of a new phone they were confident would dazzle consumers and capitalize on the opportunity, according to people familiar with the matter. They pushed suppliers to meet tighter deadlines, despite loads of new features, another person with direct knowledge said. The Note 7 would have a high-resolution screen that wraps around the edges, iris-recognition security and a more powerful, faster-charging battery. Apple’s taunts that Samsung was a copycat would be silenced for good.

This was miscalculated on several fronts, starting with the fact that the iPhone 7 is not dull.

Twitter Changes Character-Counting Rules for Tweets With Links and Attachments 

John Voorhees, writing for MacStories:

Twitter began rolling out changes that take back space for text in tweets. As Twitter has gradually become a multimedia experience full of images, GIFs, videos, quoted tweets, and other things, each has encroached on the 140 character limit of a tweet leaving less room for text. That just changed.

Good news too: third-party clients like Twitterrific and Tweetbot will be able to support this.

Punching Down 

The Macalope, on Dave Gershgorn’s argument that Apple is “punching down” by competing against smaller companies like Fitbit and Spotify:

Inasmuch as Apple is the largest tech company in the world depending on the day and what measure you use, yes, it’s almost always competing against a company that’s smaller than it is. So, all the golf claps to you, you’ve created Apple’s Kobayashi Maru. The only way for them to win is to lose a lot of money and market value. […]

Fitbit is a publicly traded company with a market cap over $3 billion. Sure, it’s no Apple — as the Macalope said, no one is — but it’s not exactly two hard-working nerds in a garage. Spotify, meanwhile, has 100 million active users and half a billion registered users. Apple Music has 17 million subscribers.

A much better example than Fitbit would be Pebble. That’s a true David to Apple’s Goliath. The whole argument is nonsense though. There’s only one way for Apple to operate, and that’s full steam ahead.

In the 1992 Olympics, the U.S. men’s basketball “Dream Team” played their first game against Angola. At one point they went on a 46-1 run, and that 1 point was a free throw after Charles Barkley was called for throwing an elbow at a player for Angola. After the game, Barkley faced criticism for playing too aggressively. His answer was, more or less, that he only knows one way to play: as hard as he can. Whether he was playing against the Angolan national team or the mighty Chicago Bulls, he played the same way.

Austin Mann’s iPhone 7 Camera Review: Rwanda 

Whole thing was shot on iPhone 7 and 7 Plus cameras. If you can, look at his example photos on a display with wide color gamut. Mann on the 7 Plus 56 mm camera:

It works exactly as I hoped. It is super quick to switch between lenses, even while you are rolling video. As seen in the video above, jumping from 1× to 2× while recording can be a great way to punch in and emphasize a detail.

In terms of quality, I found the 2× zoom lens to be equally as sharp as the iPhone wide-angle we’re accustomed to. However, I do not recommend the digital zoom beyond 2×. The quality of digital zoom degrades quickly and I find it unusable for photography (although it’s actually kind of nice as an animal spotting tool).

The 2× works in ALL modes (photo, video, time-lapse, slo-mo, and even pano), which surprised me. I didn’t expect it in each mode, and I really enjoyed shooting 2× panos, capturing extra detail in the area of the landscape I found most interesting.

And on search, which truth be told I’ve not played with yet:

Shooting photos is one thing; finding them and sharing them is another. The new Photos app in iOS 10 has a great search feature (the magnifying glass at top right) that hasn’t been talked about much.

I’ve found this feature to be very powerful and way beyond what I expected. For starters, I can search for a location like “Lake Kivu” to see all the photos I took on the lake. But going further, I can search for “tree” or “mountain” and immediately see all images containing trees or mountains. Even further still, I can search for “palm tree” and it accurately displays palm trees I’ve photographed in the last week.

Sticker Pals 

This week’s DF RSS feed was sponsored by Sticker Pals, the most ambitious Messages sticker app I’ve seen, with wonderful visually exuberant hand-animated illustrations by David Lanham. You’ve got to see it to get how good it is. Download it for free.

Here’s one example, just to give you a taste.

An example sticker from Sticker Pals.

The Talk Show: ‘Hey Bruh You Bumped Muh Hat’ 

Jim Dalrymple returns to the show. Not much to talk about this week.

Sponsored by:

  • Global Delight: Global Delight’s screen capture and video-editing app for Mac. 15-day free trial and save 25 percent with code FIREBALL.
  • Casper: An obsessively engineered mattress at a shockingly fair price. Use code THETALKSHOW for $50 toward your mattress.
  • Audible.com: With Audible, you’ll find what you’re looking for. Get a free 30-day trial.
iPhone 7 No-Click Home Button Requires Contact With Skin to ‘Click’ 

Myke Hurley:

So here’s a thing.

Cover your iPhone 7 home button with material (like from a t-shirt) and try to click it.

I think I worked it out, the TouchID sensor is what’s making the connection.

No sensor connection, no click.

Never occurred to me to try this. It’s the capacitive ring around the Touch ID sensor that needs contact with skin — that’s what turns on the sensor. This means no home button clicking while wearing gloves — yet another reason to cast a stink eye in the direction of this new home button.

Update: Serenity Caldwell proves that the button does work with capacitive gloves.

How to Switch Your Apple Watch to a New iPhone 

This is easy to screw up. If you want to switch your Apple Watch to a new iPhone, you have to do it in this order:

  1. Unpair your watch from your old iPhone. This creates a fresh backup of your watch on your iPhone.

  2. Back up your old iPhone, either to iCloud or to iTunes. If you use iTunes, be sure to encrypt it, otherwise your Health, Activity, and passwords won’t get backed up.

  3. Restore your new iPhone from the old iPhone’s backup.

  4. Pair your watch with your new iPhone and restore your watch from the backup.

We got a few new iPhones here at the Gruber household today and I botched this, by forgetting step 1. Had to do it all over again with two phones and watches. It wasn’t fresh in my memory because last week when I was setting up my review unit iPhones, I also had a review unit watch, so it was natural to unpair my old watch before starting.

How to Find the Shuffle and Repeat Buttons in the iOS 10 Music App 

Kirk McElhearn:

Lots of people have been asking where the Shuffle or Repeat buttons are in the iOS 10 Music app. And it’s true, they’re not easy to find.

The problem is, the screen where you swipe up to reveal them doesn’t offer any sort of visual indication that there’s a reason to swipe up. There’s no reason to suspect there’s anything that would be revealed by swiping up, just by looking at it.

The Marvel Symphonic Universe 

Every Frame a Painting’s Tony Zhou on why you can’t remember the music from Marvel movies.

Variable Fonts, a New Kind of Font for Flexible Design 

Tim Brown, head of typography for Adobe:

Just minutes ago, at the ATypI conference in Warsaw, the world was introduced to a new kind of font: a variable font. Jointly developed by Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Adobe, a variable font is, as John Hudson put it, “a single font file that behaves like multiple fonts”. Imagine a single font file gaining an infinite flexibility of weight, width, and other attributes without also gaining file size — and imagine what this means for design.

This looks great. I was a big fan of Adobe’s Multiple Master typefaces back in the ’90s, but they never really took off.

How Samsung Botched Its Galaxy Note 7 Recall 

Georgia Wells, John D. Mckinnon, and Yun-Hee Kim, reporting for the WSJ:

In announcing the recall, however, experts say, the South Korean company neglected to first coordinate with safety authorities in the U.S. According to U.S. law, the CPSC must be notified within 24 hours after a safety risk has been identified, and recall announcements are generally then carried out jointly.

The U.S. agency didn’t issue a statement until Sept. 9, a week after Samsung’s initial announcement.

“This is completely unusual; companies just don’t issue recalls without the CPSC,” says Pamela Gilbert, a partner with Washington’s Cuneo Gilbert & LaDuca LLP and a former executive director of the CPSC.

Samsung should have just ripped the band-aid off in one motion, and officially recalled all Note 7 units immediately. None of this nonsense about issuing a software update that limits the devices to a 60 percent charge. Just take them all back.

The official recall was issued today. It should have been issued two weeks ago.

NPD: Bluetooth Capable Headphone Sales Surpass Non-Bluetooth Sales 

The leader, ranked by dollar sales: Beats.

Apple’s iPhone 7 Will Be Super Limited in Stores and All Jet Black and Plus Models Are Sold Out 

Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch:

Apple has issued a statement tonight that is essentially setting expectations for those who hoped they’d be able to walk into an Apple store on Friday and pick themselves up an iPhone. The statement makes it clear that all iPhones will be in short supply for walk-in customers without a reservation.

The statement also indicates that Apple’s jet black iPhones and all iPhone 7 plus models in all colors have sold out completely in the initial online ordering period and that no inventory will be available.

Yep, that’s right, if you want an iPhone in jet black, just order it online and wait — you won’t find one in stores.

Imagine how much better the iPhone 7 would be selling if it had some cutting-edge design.

Getting Music Onto Apple Watch 

Joanna Stern (“Apple Watch Series 2 Review: Still Not a ‘Need,’ Finally a ‘Want’”):

Toggling through songs on my watch was far easier than getting them on there in the first place. Even after an hour on the phone with an AppleCare rep, I’m not entirely sure how I got the Apple Music playlist to wirelessly sync. Apple says it is actively working to fix this issue, but it illustrates the bigger problem of relying on a device with no cellular connectivity. I’d rather be able to stream music — and call people in an emergency.

Extra points for including an audio recording of the water eject beeps.

Lauren Goode, The Verge:

For whatever reason, I’ve had trouble syncing my iTunes to the Watch, which can support up to 2 GB of music. I can’t say I’m remotely surprised that I encountered something problematic with iTunes. A spokesperson for Apple said the company is aware that this may affect some people and is actively working to solve it.

With the combination of AirPods and GPS (for iPhone-free running and cycling), you’d think the company that invented the iPod would have made it really easy to get the music you want onto your Apple Watch.

Geekbench: Android Benchmarks vs. the A10 Fusion 

Looking at Geekbench’s results browser for Android devices, there are a handful of phones in shouting distance of the iPhone 7 for multi-core performance, but Apple’s A10 Fusion scores double on single-core.

Here are the top 5 Android phones, compared to the iPhone 7:

Device Single-Core Multi-Core
iPhone 7/7 Plus 3,450 5,630
Samsung Galaxy S7 1,806 5,213
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 1,786 5,228
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge 1,744 5,203
Huawei P9 1,729 4,735
OnePlus 3 1,698 4,015

Apple’s A-series chip design team seems to be doing OK.

Update: The iPhone 7 scores better on both single- and multi-core than any most MacBook Airs ever made, and performs comparably to a 2013 MacBook Pro.

Update 2: Here’s another eye-opener. Matt Mariska tweets:

@gruber Grain of salt and all, but Geekbench has the iPhone 7 beating the $6,500 12-core Mac Pro in single-thread.

Apple Hires Former Time Warner Cable Executive Peter Stern 

Shalini Ramachandran, reporting for the WSJ:

Apple Inc. has hired former Time Warner Cable executive Peter Stern as a vice president working on cloud services, which includes the technology company’s subscription offerings such as Apple Music and a potential streaming television service.

Wonder what he’s going to be working on?

Digital Music News: ‘Samsung “Actively Exploring” Its Own Proprietary Headphone Jack’ 

Paul Resnikoff, writing for Digital Music News:

Samsung is now “actively and aggressively” exploring the possibility of releasing a proprietary headphone jack of its own, one that would be largely incompatible with newer iPhone devices, according to details shared confidentially with Digital Music News. Taking matters a step further, Samsung — alongside manufacturers developing Android products — could block Apple from licensing their proprietary jack, similar to the stance that Apple has adopted towards the Android community and other competitors.

This is the dumbest paragraph of news I’ve read in a long time. If Samsung comes out with its own proprietary audio jack, it’s by definition going to be completely incompatible with iPhones.

As for “block[ing] Apple from licensing their proprietary jack” — Apple wouldn’t use it even if Samsung paid them to.

When Bluetooth Audio Latency Matters 

Stephen Coyle:

This solution doesn’t work for sounds that start unpredictably, unfortunately. Taps on the screen happen when they happen, and all the system can do is rush the corresponding sounds to the Bluetooth receiver as quickly as possible. With most people used to streaming video and audio, a short delay after pressing play on a video feels acceptable, but when keyboard clicks don’t sync up with your fingers contacting the screen, it’s just unpleasant. […]

This latency is also a significant issue for an app I develop, Tapt. It’s a music game, which relies on tapping rhythms accurately in order to score points. When one needs to coordinate taps on the order of 100-200ms apart, latency is a problem (for any of my bluetooth gear anyway).

Apple has made this better with AirPods. Latency is noticeably better listening to say, keyboard clicks, than with my Beats Powerbeats 2. But it’s still noticeable.

Not sure what they were thinking with the one from 1973 — italics are essential.

iPhone 7 Plus: The Case for 56 mm 

I love this well-illustrated piece by Astramael, praising the idea of the secondary 56 mm equivalent telephoto lens on the 7 Plus:

If you get an iPhone 7 Plus, don’t just use the 2× mode when you want a little more zoom. Try it out for awhile. Think at fifty-six millimeters. Frame shots with it, isolate subjects with it, shoot parts of things rather than the whole thing, find interesting perspectives, fill the foreground, and so much more. I am excited because this puts a much more versatile photography tool into the hands of millions of people.

It might not be an ultra-fast, stabilized camera. It might not even be the same sensor. But it’s good enough to change the way you think about phone photography. Which is really the point, and almost certainly part of the reason Apple did it. You have to care about photography to build this feature.

56 mm really is a great focal distance. We’ll soon see a ton of shots in Apple’s “Shot With iPhone 7” campaign from the Plus’s 56 mm camera.

Also:

Despite “telephoto” sounding a bit funny for a lens that is only 56 mm. It is technically possible and perhaps not just marketing. If the sensor is 1/3-inch it likely contains a telephoto group, and the focal length of the lens is very likely longer than the lens’ physical length. Therefore it is, probably, actually a telephoto lens. The math doesn’t quite work out for it to be a 1/3-inch sensor without altering the optical center. So either there is a telephoto group, or the sensor is smaller than 1/3-inch.

Apple’s iPhone 7 30-Second Teaser 

Stark. I like it.

A Proposal for Screenshots in WatchOS 3 

In a footnote in my review today, I noted:

Pressing the crown and side button at the same time used to take a screenshot. In WatchOS 3, screenshots are not enabled by default. You can turn them on in the General section of the iPhone Apple Watch app. If you do, when you press both buttons to pause or resume a workout, it will work, but you’ll snap a screenshot too. Such is the price we pay for a device with only two buttons.

Here’s what I think Apple should do:

  1. Keep screenshots off by default. Most people don’t need or want them on the watch. Let the “press both buttons” command serve only for pausing and resuming workouts.

  2. When you enable screenshots in the iPhone Apple Watch app, reveal one more setting: “Take Screenshots During Workouts”. It should be off by default. This way, pressing both buttons would take a screenshot, except when you’re in an active workout. During a workout, pressing both buttons would pause/resume the workout. If you really want to take screenshots of the Workout app, you can turn on this extra setting.

It sounds a little complicated but keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of Apple Watch owners don’t want to take screenshots of their watch. They’ll never even know this is there. And most people who do want to take screenshots are advanced users who shouldn’t be confused by this.

Alternative: Make “Hey Siri, take a screenshot” work.

XKCD: A Timeline of Earth’s Average Temperature 

This is quite simply one of the best infographics I’ve ever seen. Also, it is terrifying.

iOS 10 Over-the-Air Update Glitch, Now Fixed 

Jason Snell:

There are lots of reports out there of iOS devices being kicked into reset mode by a failed over-the-air iOS 10 update. […]

Apple released a statement saying this was an issue that affected a small number of users early on, and has since been fixed.

Always backup first. And it sometimes pays to wait a few hours, see how things shake out.

Daring Fireball RSS Feed Sponsorship Fall Schedule 

It’s probably the busiest week of the year, traffic-wise, on Daring Fireball, but for some reason this week remains unsold. [Update: Sold.] (It was sold, then un-sold, then sold again to a different sponsor, then postponed, but that’s a long story.) November and December are nearly sold out already, but September and October are mostly open.

Traffic and attention are pretty consistent week-to-week and month-to-month at Daring Fireball, but new iPhone week is a big one. Most years, the second week of September sells out months in advance. (Same for the second week of June, targeting WWDC.) And it’s not just new iPhones this week — it’s new Apple Watches and AirPods week too.

The rest of September and October should be great weeks too, with MacOS Sierra and (hopefully?) new Mac hardware. Get in touch if you’ve got a cool product or service to promote, and check out the list of all previous sponsors to see how many of them have come back for repeat sponsorships.

Matthew Panzarino on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus 

Matthew Panzarino, writing for TechCrunch:

Every time you take a picture with the iPhone 7, both the wide angle and telephoto fire off. Yes, two 12 megapixel pictures for every shot. This could be a prime driver behind the increase of the iPhone 7 Plus’ memory to 3GB.

Both images are needed due to an Apple technique it is calling “fusion” internally. Fusion takes data from both sensors and merges them into the best possible picture for every condition. If, for instance, there is a low-light scene that has some dark areas, the image-processing chip could choose to pick up some image data (pixels or other stuff like luminance) from the brighter f1.8 wide angle and mix it in with the data from the f2.8 telephoto, creating a composite image on the fly without any input from the user. This fusion technique is available to every shot coming from the camera, which means that the iPhone 7 Plus is mixing and matching data every time that trigger is tapped.

This technique is made possible because the optics, coatings, sensors, perspectives and color balances of the two cameras are perfectly matched.

Terrific review. He makes all sorts of points that I wish I’d made in mine.

In my testing I didn’t see any noticeable difference between 1× shots on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. I think this “fusion” stuff only kicks in, or at least mostly kicks in, once you start increasing the zoom level. Put another way, I think the wide angle lens assists the telephoto lens more than the telephoto lens assists the wide angle.

The other thing I don’t think I emphasized enough in my review: it never feels like you are switching between two cameras. It feels like one camera that has remarkable zoom optics for its size. I emphasized the two-camera stuff because I’m trying to explain (and understand myself) how it works. But in use it’s so simple and integrated. It’s actually hard to believe it’s two cameras when you use it. And the new zoom control interface is so much better. You can still pinch the display to zoom, but the slider is a much better control.

Also worth noting: his jet black iPhone 7 picked up some scratches. Close up, easily visible. Arm’s distance, not so much.

Parakeet: Snacks 

Another delightful sticker pack. These look better than real food.

Iconfactory Stickers 

Who better to provide some excellent stickers for the new iOS 10 Messages app than the exquisite artists at Iconfactory? See their blog for more details, including how to get bonus stickers by buying multiple packs.

HP Agrees to Acquire Samsung Printer Business for $1.05 Billion 

Don Clark and Eun-Young Jeong, reporting for the WSJ:

HP Inc. agreed to buy Samsung Electronics Co.’s printer business for $1.05 billion, a deal designed to bolster the Silicon Valley company’s offerings in the market for high-volume devices that handle printing and copying for office work groups.

I had no idea Samsung had a printer division worth $1 billion.

Update: HP’s visionary leadership in this acquisition brings to mind this gem from The Onion back in 2011: “New Apple CEO Tim Cook: ‘I’m Thinking Printers’”.

Kottke.org, the Fall 2016 Edition 

In addition to being a great writer and blogger, Kottke is still a great designer. He’s fearlessly redefined the visual brand numerous times since 1998 — remember lime green? That’s the canonical Kottke.org of my mind. And this new design is simpler than any of its predecessors. Websites, like apps, tend to accumulate cruft over time. Kottke.org is cleaner and simpler than ever, and better for it.

Sports Illustrated: iPhone 7 Plus Sneak Preview Photos 

Sports Illustrated:

On Sunday, Sports Illustrated photographer David E. Klutho took photos with the new iPhone 7 Plus camera at the Titans-Vikings game. The iPhone 7 Plus has a 12–megapixel telephoto camera that offers new zooming capabilities.

Great photos. They don’t look like phone photos. They look like Sports Illustrated photos. The only tell is that the depth of field is so deep — it looks like SI’s test unit didn’t have the faux-bokeh (faux-keh?) Portrait mode enabled.

Mountain Duck 

My thanks to Mountain Duck for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Mountain Duck — based on the solid open source foundation of Cyberduck — lets you mount server and cloud storage as a disk on your desktop. They support SFTP, WebDAV, Amazon S3, Google Drive and Google Cloud Storage, Azure Cloud Storage, and more. There are other utilities that do the same thing, but Mountain Duck has a bunch of advantages. One is better performance. Another one is that it installs without admin privileges, and doesn’t require a kernel extension.

Use coupon code “DARINGFIREBALL” to get a 20% discount this week.

One More Attempt to Explain the Difference Between Jet Black and Black iPhones 7 

I posted this to Twitter late last night. It might explain my feelings on the difference between black and jet black better than my piece last night.

AirPods Hands-On: ‘They Stayed in My Ears and Sounded Awesome’ 

Susie Ochs, Macworld:

Now, that plastic has been a deal-breaker for me for years — I hate how normal EarPods feel in my ears. They don’t seem like they’re going to stay put, and they simply fall out if I move my head too much. Even if they do stay in, after about a half hour, my ears just start to ache, although I don’t experience the same pain when using earbuds with silicone or foam tips. Since the AirPods look so similar, I expected them to feel the same too — and I’m surprised and happy to report that I was dead wrong.

Not only did I dance, I headbanged. I shook my head side to side, I tossed my hair, I jogged in place, and I looked silly doing all of it. The AirPods stayed put, and they stayed loud. The music (more Sia, naturally) sounded full and lush and I couldn’t hear a single word anyone around me was saying, as if I was completely sealed off in a bubble of rock and roll. Pretty impressive.

My experience as well. I don’t mind Apple’s wired ear buds, but the AirPods feel better and fit better.

The AirPods’ special features are pretty impressive too, even though that specialness means they only work with Apple devices. You don’t need a brand-new iPhone or Apple Watch to use them, but they only support Apple devices running the latest operating systems: iOS 10, macOS Sierra, and watchOS 3. The AirPods use Bluetooth, so you would think maybe there’d be a way to pair them to an Android phone or an iOS 8 device since those have Bluetooth too, but there’s no button on the AirPods to put them into pairing mode. We’ll test to confirm when we get review units, but it seems like the AirPods will only be “seen” by Apple devices.

It’s true that the special pairing magic only works on Apple devices running the new OSes. But the AirPods can most certainly be used as regular old Bluetooth ear buds with an Android device or a Mac running a pre-Sierra OS or whatever. The pairing button is on the case, not the AirPods.

Belkin Lightning Audio + Charge RockStar 

$40 dongle made in cooperation with Apple:

The Lightning Audio + Charge RockStar makes it possible to listen to Lightning Audio while charging your iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Enjoy music or talk through Lightning Audio headphones while you charge. Use the RockStar anywhere; at home, at work, in the car or on the go.

Someone should make a long (3-4 feet?) USB-to-Lightning cable that has a short 3.5mm headphone jack Y-splitter at the end.

For people who charge while listening to headphones at their desk, Apple’s years-old Lightning dock has always had a headphone jack for audio out.

How Apple Conducted Its iPhone 7 Battery Tests 

Interesting note: Apple conducted most of its iPhone 7 battery life tests with the phones paired to “Bluetooth headphones”, presumably AirPods.

How to Reset and Enter DFU Mode on iPhone 7 

Volume down takes the role previously held by the home button.

Akamai: ‘Yesterday’s Apple Keynote Was the Highest Ever Peak Video Traffic Event for Akamai’ 

Remember when Apple’s keynote feeds used to flake out? Seems like a long time ago. Would love to know the actual number of live viewers — Akamai handled the video streams for the Olympics.

Samsung Has $38 Million of Goods on Board Two Vessels of Bankrupt Hanjin Shipping Co. 

Kyunghee Park and Edvard Pettersson, reporting for Bloomberg

Samsung Electronics Co., the world’s biggest smartphone maker, said about $38 million of its goods and parts were on board two vessels operated by the distressed Hanjin Shipping Co., which applied for bankruptcy protection last week.

Supporting Hanjin’s Chapter 15 U.S. Bankruptcy Court petition, Samsung said in a court filing Tuesday that without an order protecting the shipping line against creditors, the vessels won’t be able to dock, causing the South Korean electronics maker losses that may “continue to escalate so long as the cargo aboard these ships remains unloaded.”

$38 million is probably small potatoes compared to the cost of the Note 7 recall (not to mention any lawsuits they might face over exploded phones), but this adds to a run of bad luck for Samsung.

Om Malik on the iPhone 7 and the Camera Industry 

Om Malik, writing for The New Yorker:

The distinct business advantage that Apple has achieved thanks to its hardware is the sheer volume of iPhone sales, which justifies the big spending on the specialized chips that make that hardware so powerful. The new image processor is a perfect example. It can spread the cost of that investment in chips over hundreds of millions of iPhones. In comparison, the falling sales of stand-alone cameras have hampered the ability of camera companies to innovate and spend on core technologies. Given that hardware and software are equally important today, Apple’s advances in both areas makes it difficult for anyone to beat the company in photography for the masses. You can see why the camera companies are doomed.

Another factor is that it now feels natural to be able to share photos across the internet as soon as you’ve snapped them. There are times when I’ll take a photo with my iPhone even when I have my Fuji X100S with me, simply because I want to post it to Instagram or Twitter, or send it to someone privately on iMessage.

Business Insider Clickbait of the Day 

Dave Smith at Business Insider: “Here’s What Happens if Your Apple AirPods Get Lost or Stolen”:

What happens if someone steals your AirPods? What if you’re on the subway and someone snatches one or both out of your ears and runs away? Does Apple have a way of preventing this kind of theft?

The short answer, unfortunately, is no.

Apple says that if AirPods are lost or stolen, you’ll have to buy new ones, just like any other Apple product. There’s no anti-theft measures in place to protect your shiny wireless earbuds.

Google search must be broken — I’m trying to find Business Insider’s previous coverage on what happens if your $300 Bose / Beats / Sennheiser / Etymotic headphones get lost or stolen, and I’m coming up with nothing.

Apple Will Not Give First-Weekend Sales of iPhone 7 

Julia Love, reporting for Reuters:

Apple Inc. will not release first-weekend sales of its new iPhone 7, the company said on Thursday, making it harder for analysts to get a read on the product’s prospects amid questions over whether its popularity has peaked. […]

“As we have expanded our distribution through carriers and resellers to hundreds of thousands of locations around the world, we are now at a point where we know before taking the first customer pre-order that we will sell out of iPhone 7,” Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said. “These initial sales will be governed by supply, not demand, and we have decided that it is no longer a representative metric for our investors and customers.”

One reason this makes sense is what happened two years ago:

On Sept. 28, 2015, when Apple announced record first-weekend sales of its iPhone 6, its stock dropped 2 percent, reflecting Wall Street’s worries about cooling demand.

The iPhone 6 wound up selling in far greater numbers than anyone, including Apple, expected. The opening weekend numbers didn’t help anyone foresee actual demand.

On the other hand, here’s Steve Jobs in a 2009 interview with David Pogue:

He said that Apple doesn’t see e-books as a big market at this point, and pointed out that Amazon.com, for example, doesn’t ever say how many Kindles it sells. “Usually, if they sell a lot of something, you want to tell everybody.”

Inside iPhone 7: Why Apple Killed the Headphone Jack 

Great feature by John Paczkowski for BuzzFeed:

I know a longtime iPhone user who’s something of an audiophile. He’s spent a fair bit of money on high-end headphones over the years. The other day he told me that if the next iPhone doesn’t have a headphone jack and there’s a marquee Android phone available that does, he’ll switch. He doesn’t want Lightning headphones or wireless buds. And he doesn’t want to carry an adapter. He just wants to use the headphones he likes. And he doesn’t think he’s alone. What would Apple’s leadership say to someone like him?

“We do understand that this might be a difficult transition for some people who love their wired headphones,” says Schiller. “But the transition is inevitable. You’ve got to do it at some point. Sooner or later the headphone jack is going away. There are just too many reasons aligned against it sticking around any longer. There’s a little bit of pain in every transition, but we can’t let that stop us from making it. If we did, we’d never make any progress at all. The question we ask ourselves when making transitions like these is, have we done all the right things to mitigate it and to explain it and to make what’s on the other side so good that everyone is happy with the change? We think we’ve done that.”

Ming-Chi Kuo: ‘Apple Planning Wireless Headphones to Target Higher-End Than Beats for iPhone 7’ 

Ming-Chi Kuo:

We believe Apple will position Beats in the midrange market once it launches Apple’s own-brand Bluetooth headphones, in order to maximize profit with a dual-brand strategy. We also believe Apple will have its own-designed Bluetooth-like communication chip, given its higher requirements for power-saving, communication specs and potential rapid growth of Bluetooth headphone shipments.

This makes no sense to me. Wouldn’t the Apple-branded AirPods be in the mid-range, and the Beats headphones in the high-end range? Beats is already a company that sells $300 headphones.

WSJ Jackassery: ‘Apple’s New iPhones Arrive, as Glow Fades’ 

This is the actual sub-head:

Plan to eliminate headphone jacks faces criticism, as sales slow and competition heats up.

Yes, Samsung’s phones are really heating up.

What to Look for at Tomorrow’s Apple Event 

If you’re going to read one preview of tomorrow’s event, make it Jason Snell’s.

David Smith on Evolving App Store Business Models 

David Smith:

I don’t have solid data going all the way back to 2008 when I launched my first app, but I do from 2012. In the last 4.5 years the split of where my revenue comes from has followed a clear, inexorable march from being paid-based to advertising-based. Starting in 2012 advertising in my apps made up around 10% of sales whereas now it is nearly 80%. That increase has come almost entirely from a near collapse of my paid upfront sales (with my in-app purchase income largely unchanged). […]

As I have looked back on these last few years I’ve come to the conclusion that the change is mostly been in the App Store market, rather than in my own attitudes. In many cases adding advertising to my apps has been something I’ve fought and resisted as long as possible. But in the end the pragmatic answer has been to not swim upstream and instead follow where my customers have moved to.

The market has been pulling me along towards advertising based apps, and I’ve found that the less I fight back with anachronistic ideas about how software “should” be sold, the more sustainable a business I have.

Three thoughts:

  • This jibes with my conclusions about Vesper. There’s still a strong market for paid-up-front Mac apps, but with mobile apps, you really have to treat them more like websites: free to use, with either advertising, paid extras, or both.

  • Smith saw a nice jump in advertising revenue earlier this year when he switched from iAd to AdMob. That means Apple is getting a much lower percentage of the revenue generated by Smith’s apps.

  • I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more popular iPhone apps move toward advertising.

All 25 of Apple’s Dongles in One Place 

Will be at least 26 come Wednesday.

The Talk Show: ‘Way of the Future’ 

Rene Ritchie returns to the show to discuss what we expect at Apple’s upcoming event in San Francisco: new iPhones (without headphone jacks, and with a radical new two-lens camera on the Plus-sized model), Apple Watch 2 (and a new fall lineup of watch bands). We also discuss Samsung’s recall of the Galaxy Note 7 (because of exploding batteries), when we’ll see new Mac hardware and new iPads, and more.

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Android Device Makers Keep Pretending That Android Doesn’t Exist 

Vlad Savov:

I’ve been at IFA, Europe’s biggest tech show, for three days now and I’ve had my eyes filled with a parade of all the shiny, beautiful new technology coming to an Amazon delivery drone near you. Much of that technology is powered by Google’s omnipresent Android software, but you wouldn’t know it from the way the new devices are presented. Android has become many tech companies’ original sin: fundamental to their identity and the character of their products, but buried under a thick veneer of insecure puffery, denial, and evasion.

This is inevitable with a commodity platform like Android. Just like how PC makers can’t brag about running Windows because everyone else runs Windows, the phone makers can’t brag about Android. Even worse, most new Android phones are at least a year behind the latest version. Only Apple can truly promote its software as a differentiating advantage.

FilmTouch 

My thanks to FilmTouch for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Their message is short and sweet:

If you’re in the film industry and you receive callsheets, go get the FilmTouch iPhone app. It’ll change your life; sort of.

If you’re not in the film industry, take care of that first before you get the app.

Yours Truly on Random Trek 

Random Trek is a “weekly podcast in which Scott McNulty discusses a randomly selected episode of ‘Star Trek’ — all series, all seasons — with a non-random guest.” This week, I was the guest, talking about an episode from season 4 of The Next Generation (my favorite Trek series, by far). A lot of fun. Probably helps to watch the episode first.

14 Excerpts From the FBI’s Report on Hillary Clinton’s Email 

Kevin Drum, after reading the entire FBI report on Hillary Clinton’s email:

That said, this report is pretty much an almost complete exoneration of Hillary Clinton. She wasn’t prohibited from using a personal device or a personal email account, and others at state did it routinely. She’s told the truth all along about why she did it. Colin Powell did indeed advise her about using personal email shortly after she took office, but she chose to follow the rules rather than skirt them, as Powell did. She didn’t take her BlackBerry into her office. She communicated with only a very select group of 13 people. She took no part in deciding which emails were personal before handing them over to State. She had nothing to do with erasing information on the PRN server. That was a screw-up on PRN’s end. She and her staff all believed at the time that they were careful not to conduct sensitive conversations over unclassified email systems. And there’s no evidence that her server was ever hacked.

There’s remarkably little here. If you nonetheless believe that it’s enough to disqualify Hillary from the presidency, that’s fine. I have no quarrel with you. But if the FBI is to be believed, it’s all pretty small beer.

The Future of the MacBook Air 

Benjamin Thomas, on Twitter:

What makes you think Airs are sunsetted? To my knowledge they’re the most used Macs on the planet. Why would Apple kill a cash cow?

He’s right that the MacBook Airs are Apple’s best-selling Macs. On The Talk Show a few weeks ago, Jason Snell speculated that the MacBook Pro might be Apple’s best-selling Mac lineup. I disagreed, but thought perhaps the MacBook Pros might be Apple’s biggest money maker — lower quantities but higher prices.

I got a few emails from listeners who work in Apple retail. The gist is that price is everything. The lower-priced MacBook Airs vastly outsell the more expensive MacBooks and MacBook Pros. By any measure, the MacBook Airs are Apple’s bestselling laptops.

What I wrote in July still stands:

Something unusual is certainly going on. We have to get updated MacBook Pros and Mac Pros soon (September?), right?

I don’t think, though, that the MacBook Air will ever get another update. I think it only exists to occupy the sub-$1000 price range until Apple can sell a year-old MacBook for $899. I wouldn’t be shocked if they rolled out a minor speed-bump update to the MacBook Airs, but I don’t expect them to. The future is just MacBooks and MacBook Pros.

We might be getting that speed bump update (along with USB-C ports), but I would be very surprised if we get a major update with retina displays. I still think the future is just MacBooks and MacBook Pros.

Claim Chowder: Project Ara 

My favorite Project Ara puff piece is this one, by David Pierce for Wired, back in May. The claim chowder starts right in the headline: “Project Ara Lives: Google’s Modular Phone Is Ready for You Now”.

After years of failed demos, public sputters, and worrisome silence, Ara works. About 30 people within ATAP are using Ara as their primary phone. Camargo actually has the luxury of worrying about things like aesthetics, rather than whether it’ll turn on. “Please pay no attention to how it looks,” he tells me, flipping the blocky smartphone over in his hands, “because it’s a prototype.” It’s not a concept, not an idea, not a YouTube video. It’s a prototype. Developer kits for Ara will be shipping later this year, and a consumer version is coming in 2017.

As I wrote in May:

In what universe does this qualify as “ready for us now”? It’s not ready at all, and nothing in this story makes it sound like a good idea. It’s nonsense.

Three months later, and the plug has been pulled.

Samsung Is Recalling the Galaxy Note 7 Worldwide Over Battery Problem 

Jethro Mullen and K.J. Kwon, reporting for CNN Money:

The massive recall of one of Samsung’s flagship devices is an embarrassing setback for the world’s biggest selling smartphone maker. The Note 7 was unveiled just a month ago, and big rival Apple is expected to show off its new smartphone next week.

Samsung said Friday it had found a problem with the battery in some of the phones and was halting sales in 10 countries, including South Korea and the U.S. It will offer customers a new product for free in the coming weeks to replace the 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7s that have been sold.

That’s a multi-billion dollar mistake.

Will the New iPhones Support Apple Pencil? 

From an interview with NDTV’s Vikram Chandra back in May:

NDTV: Has that voice never come to you? For example when you launched the pencil and you know what Steve said,’ if you see a stylus they blew it’, when you launched that pencil?

Tim Cook: Well we launched a pencil not a stylus, first of all, and there’s a big difference and the things that people are doing with this pencil, I think that Steve would have loved. He loved to help people create. And if you’ve ever seen what can be created on an iPhone or an iPad with that pencil is really unbelievable. You should really show some of these to your audience.

One way or the other, Cook clearly misspoke there. Either he was just plain wrong about the iPhone supporting Apple Pencil, or he slipped and gave away a feature in this year’s new iPhones. (Thanks to Stephane Rangaya.)

Update: If you watch the video, what Cook actually said is slightly different from the transcript, and suggests even more strongly that the pencil works with iPhone. Starting around the 29:10 mark, he says, “If you’ve ever seen what can be created with that pencil on an iPad or an iPhone, it’s really unbelievable.” (Thanks to Troy Gaul for catching this.)

Satirical Political Apps in the App Store 

Douglas Ernst, writing for The Washington Times:

The conservative website Heat Street reported Friday that “Hide it Hillary,” which is now available on Google Play for Android devices, does not condone violence or even feature the former secretary of state’s image. Instead, users are tasked with putting documents into a “laptop, server, shredder, or closet.”

“I absolutely believe there’s a double standard with Apple in the sense that they have defamatory and mean-spirited Trump games available for download but none for Hillary,” developers Ansem Omega Solutions told the website. “I can’t imagine we are the first developers to experience this type of bias. In fact, one of the main reasons we chose to develop a Hillary app is because there were no Hillary apps whatsoever in the store 6 months ago when we began developing.”

I have no idea why some of these apps get rejected and others get through, but it’s absolutely false that there are no anti-Hillary Clinton apps in the App Store. Just search for “Hillary”, and you’ll see a bunch, including several of the “Never Hillary” variety.

Lenovo Yoga Book 

This device is like nothing else I’ve ever seen. Sort of a half-tablet/half-laptop, running either Android or Windows 10.

Reuters: Google Shitcans Project Ara 

Julia Love, reporting for Reuters:

Alphabet Inc’s Google has suspended Project Ara, its ambitious effort to build what is known as a modular smartphone with interchangeable components, as part of a broader push to streamline the company’s hardware efforts, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

The move marks an about-face for the tech company, which announced a host of partners for Project Ara at its developer conference in May and said it would ship a developer edition of the product this autumn.

You say “ambitious”, I say “ridiculous boondoggle”. Pour one out for all the breathless coverage of this at The Verge.

Samsung Expected to Announce Recall of New Galaxy Note 7 Due to Exploding Batteries 

Yonhap News Agency, South Korea:

Samsung Electronics Co. is expected to announce an unprecedented recall of all of its newest Galaxy Note 7 phablets sold at home and abroad in less than a week, a company official said Thursday, after reports that a few of the devices exploded while being charged.

The Samsung official told Yonhap News Agency that the cause of the reported explosions has been traced to the battery of the new phablet.

Yikes.

Industry watchers say Samsung will be able to take the likely recall as an opportunity to upgrade its credibility, as long as it takes prompt and convincing measures.

I would love to see the names of the “industry watchers” who think this fiasco will “upgrade Samsung’s credibility”.

Apple Is Going to Remove Abandoned Apps From the App Store 

Romain Dillet, reporting for TechCrunch:

In addition to search ads and extensions in many different apps in iOS 10, Apple plans to remove all these useless apps that clutter the App Store search pages.

And Apple is not going to stop at abandoned apps. The company will also fight spammy app names. For instance, if you search for “Instagram” on the App Store, one of the first results is an app that is called “[app name] Photo Collage, Picture Editor, Pic Grid, F…” and then it gets cut off.

Better late than never, but this is how I expected Apple to manage the App Store all along.

Why Europe Is Ordering Apple to Pay Ireland $14.5 Billion in Taxes Ireland Doesn’t Want 

Matt Yglesias:

But in recent years, Vestager and her competition commission have interpreted favorable corporate income tax deals as a form of illegal subsidy. She says that due to its arrangement with the Irish government, “Apple only paid an effective corporate tax rate that declined from 1% in 2003 to 0.005% in 2014 on the profits of Apple Sales International.”

This, she says, is “illegal under EU state aid rules, because it gives Apple a significant advantage over other businesses that are subject to the same national taxation rules.”

The best explanation I’ve seen about this story.

Why Old Android Phones Aren’t Getting an Upgrade to Nougat 

Andrew Cunningham:

After doing some digging and talking to some people, we can say that it will be either very difficult if not completely impossible for any phone that uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 or 801 to get an official, Google-sanctioned Nougat update (including the Z3). And that’s a pretty big deal, since those two chips powered practically every single Android flagship sold from late 2013 until late 2014 and a few more recent devices to boot.

This situation has far-reaching implications for the Android ecosystem. And while it can be tempting to lay the blame at the feet of any one company — Google for creating this update mess in the first place, Qualcomm for failing to support older chipsets, and the phone makers for failing to keep up with new software — it’s really kind of everybody’s fault.

This is just how Android works. You shouldn’t expect your Android phone to ever get a major OS update. Instead, you get updates to Google Play Services. That sucks, but that’s just how it is, and almost certainly how it always will be.

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