The Daring Fireball Linked List

Apple, U2, and Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth 

Peter Cohen, writing for iMore:

Let me say at the outset that I’m pretty ambivalent about U2 myself. They’ve never been one of those bands that I’ve absolutely had to have the latest album from. In fact, Songs of Innocence is the only U2 record I have in my iTunes library.

But the inordinate amount of actual anger directed at Apple and U2 over this is so disproportional to the actual event, I’ve started to wonder about the mental state of some of those complaining. It’s really been off the charts.

If you fall into that camp, let me speak very plainly: I have no sympathy for you. I have trouble thinking of a more self-indulgent, “first world problem” than saying “I hate this free new album I’ve been given.”

Nailed it.

‘Why Amazon Has No Profits (and Why It Works)’ 

Benedict Evans:

When you buy Amazon stock (the main currency with which Amazon employees are paid, incidentally), you are buying a bet that he can convert a huge portion of all commerce to flow through the Amazon machine. The question to ask isn’t whether Amazon is some profitless ponzi scheme, but whether you believe Bezos can capture the future. That, and how long are you willing to wait?

U2’s Forgettable Fire 

Sasha Frere-Jones’s track-by-track review of U2’s Songs of Innocence:

“California (Blah Blah Blah)”: The track sounds like seventeen different bands averaged out in Yelp and turned into an Active Rock Smoothie. Nowhere near as good as “Drunk In Love.”

Starting to get the feeling this promotion hasn’t worked out exactly the way U2 and Apple thought it would.

Bob Lefsetz on U2 and Apple 

Bob Lefsetz:

This looked like nothing so much as what it was, old farts using their connections to shove material down the throats of those who don’t want it. It’s what we hate so much about today’s environment, rich people who think they know better and are entitled to their behavior.

Not quite as scathing as Lewis Wallace calling it “a pity-fuck for a band that’s lost its edge”, but close.

Panasonic CM1: Hybrid Camera/Smartphone 

The most interesting Android phone I’ve seen in years: it’s more like a point-and-shoot camera with a phone than a phone with a camera.

New Samsung Galaxy Note 4 Commercial Mocks Apple for Being Late to Big-Ass Phone Game 

Weird ad. The time for Samsung to try to make hay out of this was last year, when Apple didn’t have a plus-sized iPhone. “We have something they don’t have” is a good marketing message. “We were first”, not so much. They’re just amplifying the already incredible public awareness that big new iPhones are available.

Dropbox 2014 Transparency Report 

They also published their “Government Data Requests Principles”. Sounds like they’re doing right by their users.

Apple Support Document: ‘Remove iTunes Gift Album “Songs of Innocence” From Your iTunes Music Library and Purchases’ 

There.

Chris Ware’s ‘The Last Saturday’ 

The Guardian:

A brand new graphic novella by the award-winning cartoonist Chris Ware, tracing the lives of six individuals from Sandy Port, Michigan, published in weekly episodes.

Great work from Ware, as always, and an interesting presentation from The Guardian. (Via Coudal.)

Markus Persson: ‘I’m Leaving Mojang’ 

Minecraft creator Markus “Notch” Persson:

I love you. All of you. Thank you for turning Minecraft into what it has become, but there are too many of you, and I can’t be responsible for something this big. In one sense, it belongs to Microsoft now. In a much bigger sense, it’s belonged to all of you for a long time, and that will never change.

It’s not about the money. It’s about my sanity.

Mojang: ‘Yes, We’re Being Bought by Microsoft’ 

Mojang makes it official:

As you might already know, Notch is the creator of Minecraft and the majority shareholder at Mojang. He’s decided that he doesn’t want the responsibility of owning a company of such global significance. Over the past few years he’s made attempts to work on smaller projects, but the pressure of owning Minecraft became too much for him to handle. The only option was to sell Mojang. He’ll continue to do cool stuff though. Don’t worry about that.

There are only a handful of potential buyers with the resources to grow Minecraft on a scale that it deserves. We’ve worked closely with Microsoft since 2012, and have been impressed by their continued dedication to our game and its development. We’re confident that Minecraft will continue to grow in an awesome way.

Record Pre-Orders for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus 

Apple:

Apple today announced a record number of first day pre-orders of iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, the biggest advancements in iPhone history, with over four million in the first 24 hours. Demand for the new iPhones exceeds the initial pre-order supply and while a significant amount will be delivered to customers beginning on Friday and throughout September, many iPhone pre-orders are scheduled to be delivered in October.

Busy weekend.

Jonathan Mann Sums Up Day One of XOXO Fest 2014 

What an amazing event — there’s nothing else like XOXO.

Pixate 

My thanks to Pixate for once again sponsoring the DF RSS feed. With Pixate, mobile designers can craft sophisticated animations and interactions for any form factor. You can already start designing for new displays like those on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and they’re already working on support for the Apple Watch. And here’s the thing: Pixate generates 100 percent native iOS (and Android) prototypes. Native code, not web views.

They have a special deal just for DF readers: Sign up now to get on the waiting list and you’ll get a free month when Pixate launches.

Why Apple Pay Could Be the Mobile-Payment System You’ll Actually Use 

Rich Mogull, writing for Macworld:

But aside from the technical differences, Apple is in a unique position due to its business model. It doesn’t want or need to track transactions. It doesn’t want or need to be the payment processor. It isn’t restricted by carrier agreements, since it fully controls the hardware. Google, although first to the market by a matter of years, is still hamstrung by device manufacturers and carriers. Softcard is hamstrung by the usual greed and idiocy of mobile phone providers. PayPal has no footprint on devices.

This is a long-term investment by Apple, and possibly one of the most important since it first built the iTunes Store. Apple is putting its muscle behind improving the user experience of making payments, and using that to sell more devices. It won’t make much directly from Apple Pay now. But as more people use supported devices and push more merchants to support the user experience, odds are that those small per-transaction fees will grow into a significant source of revenue.

Letter of Recommendation 

Chris Breen sings the praises of his former colleagues at Macworld. An awful lot of talented writers just hit the market.

Larger iPhone 6 Plus Sells Out, ‘Record Number’ of iPhone Pre-Orders 

I spent over an hour trying to order from the online Apple Store (4.7-inch, space gray, 128 GB) to no avail. The closest I got was a properly configured phone but a disabled “Add to Cart” button.

Gave up, went to the Verizon website, and successfully ordered there. I think. Verizon’s website is almost spectacularly convoluted and ugly as sin.

You’d think after eight years Apple would be able to deal with this. No surprise demand is high — the iPhones 6 are amazing, and bigger displays have been long-awaited — but the online store crapping itself so utterly is just embarrassing.

PC Guys Aren’t Going to Just Walk In… 

CNBC:

Apple faces a mountain of challenges as it seeks to break into mobile payments with Apple Pay, a PayPal executive told CNBC on Thursday.

“Payments is a tough ecosystem and you know, other players, other major consumer Internet companies have tried to enter in the space and have found, you know, limited success,” said Bill Ready, CEO of Braintree, the parent company of mobile payment services providers PayPal and Venmo. “And a big part of that is it is a very difficult space.”

You can smell the claim chowder brewing.

Tentpoles 

Horace Dediu:

As in the Revolutionary User Interface story,  the symmetry in approach to the launch is telling, but what I want to note is that the three things which the iPhone was defined as being are no longer things that it is most used for.

Yes, the iPhone is still a wide-screen iPod which gets plenty of use but I don’t think anyone thinks that is a defining feature. It’s also a phone, but the Phone is just an app which, for me at least, is not frequently used. I communicate with my iPhone but the go-to app is iMessage or FaceTime or Skype or maybe Email or Twitter. Phone is something I use so rarely that the interface sometimes baffles me. And yes, it’s an Internet appliance. Browsing is something I do quite a bit but many of the browsing jobs-to-be-done are done better by apps. News, shopping Facebook and maps are “things which were once done in a browser.”

So I wonder whether the tentpole product-defining anchors used to introduce the Apple Watch will be faintly amusing a few years from now.

Timekeeping and fitness tracking, I don’t know. Those could fade in importance after we get a rich ecosystem of apps. But communication seems key to the Apple Watch concept — it’s the only feature other than the home screen with a dedicated hardware button.

Facebook and Politics 

Derek Willis, writing for the NYT:

The “Custom Managed Audiences” tool works like this: A campaign or group uses its own list of potential voters (or buys one from a state authority or private vendor) and uploads it to Facebook. The company then matches the names to its user base through databases managed by companies, such as Acxiom, that specialize in collecting information about individuals. This process effectively combines the electoral information it already knows about voters with their Facebook profiles: likes, group memberships, issues or even favorites. The process anonymizes the users’ personal identifiers but retains enough information to enable campaigns to target well-defined groups.

Eddy Cue on stage on Tuesday: “We’re not in the business of collecting your data.”

Can you even imagine what Facebook Pay would be like?

Apple Watch ‘Too Feminine and Looks Like It Was Designed by Students’, Says LVMH Executive 

The Telegraph:

Jean-Claude Biver, who heads the French group’s luxury watch division, said the US tech giant had made “some fundamental mistakes” designing the Apple Watch.

“This watch has no sex appeal. It’s too feminine and looks too much like the smartwatches already on the market,” Mr Biver said in an interview with daily Die Welt.

“To be totally honest, it looks like it was designed by a student in their first trimester,” added Mr Biver, who heads up the brands Tag Heuer, Zenith and Hublot.

“PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.”

iPhone 6 and 6 Plus Displays Demystified 

Great visual explanation from PaintCode regarding the new iPhone displays, particularly the clever downsampling used for the Plus.

Tim Cook Interview With USA Today 

Marco della Cava, USA Today:

Apple’s new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus both feature larger screens reminiscent of competitors’ devices. By design, says Cook. “It’s an incredible opportunity for us to switch people from Android to iOS. So yes, this is epic. It is epic,” he says.

That’s an honest take. There’s no use pretending that Apple isn’t last to the big-screen phone game. But now they’re here, and if you bought an Android phone just to get a big screen, now you have a reason to consider switching to iPhone.

How to Hide the Free U2 Album From Your iTunes Library 

Good tip from Kirk McElhearn. Me, I like U2. But I didn’t know you could manage your Recent Purchases list like this.

A Watch Guy’s Thoughts on the Apple Watch After Seeing It in the Metal 

Benjamin Clymer, Hodinkee:

I’m not even sure we can call it a watch. Okay, it goes on the wrist, and it happens to tell the time, but that’s about where the similarities between Apple’s just announced watch and the hand-assembled, often painstakingly finished mechanical watches we write about, and obsess over, end. I was lucky enough to be invited to Cupertino to witness the announcement of the Apple Watch firsthand, and though I do not believe it poses any threat to haute horology manufactures, I do think the Apple Watch will be a big problem for low-priced quartz watches, and even some entry-level mechanical watches. In years to come, it could pose a larger threat to higher end brands, too. The reason? Apple got more details right on their watch than the vast majority of Swiss and Asian brands do with similarly priced watches, and those details add up to a really impressive piece of design. It offers so much more functionality than other digitals it’s almost embarrassing. But it’s not perfect, by any means. Read on to hear my thoughts on the Apple Watch, from the perspective of a watch guy.

I’ve been a huge fan of Clymer and Hodinkee for years; his take on the Apple Watch is the best I’ve seen regarding the watch as a watch. Astute.

Valleywag: ‘Macworld Staff Mostly Canned After Biggest Apple News Day of the Year’ 

Sam Biddle:

The economic reality of running a print publication dedicated to Apple news is a total disaster, of course — blogs run a monopoly on that, and have for years. But squeezing one last grueling day of marathon iPhone coverage out of a team on the verge of firing is not cool.

Seems like a real dick move on IDG’s part.

Speculation on Apple’s Live Event Stream Failure 

Dan Rayburn:

Apple’s live stream of the unveiling of the iPhone 6 and Watch was a disaster today right from the start, with many users like myself having problems trying to watch the event. While at first I assumed it must be a capacity issue pertaining to Akamai, a deeper look at the code on Apple’s page and some other elements from the event shows that decisions made by Apple pertaining to their website, and problems with how they setup storage on Amazon’s S3 service, contributed the biggest problems to the event.

(Via Shawn King.)

Update: A lot of readers are saying Rayburn’s speculation is way off-base, so take it with a large grain of salt. The comments on his post explain much of what he got wrong/doesn’t understand.

Update 2: Another analysis of the stream problems, from Simon Fredsted.

Jason Snell Leaves Macworld, Staff Laid Off 

Jason Snell:

Unfortunately, many of my colleagues lost their jobs today. If there’s anything I can do to help them, I will. I have had time to plan for this day, but they haven’t. You probably know some of them. Please join with me in giving them sympathy and support.

I’ve known Jason and many of the staffers at Macworld for years. I just saw them yesterday. This is hard for me to believe, and very sad.

Macworld is not closing, but the print magazine is closing, and it sounds like a lot of the familiar bylines will be gone.

Update: Re-reading Snell’s announcement, I have to say, it’s a masterpiece of tone and restraint.

Apple Posts Video From Today’s Event 

If you haven’t watched already, enjoy.

(Don’t hold your breath waiting for my thoughts on today’s news; much to digest, and much to think about. I’ll have much to say, but not tonight.)

WSJ: Microsoft Near Deal to Buy Minecraft 

The WSJ:

Microsoft Corp. is in serious discussions to buy Mojang AB, the Swedish company behind the popular “Minecraft” videogame, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

The deal would be valued at more than $2 billion and could be signed as early as this week, this person said.

Believe it or not, this might be the biggest tech news of the day in the Gruber household.

ABC News Teases Report of Inside Access to ‘Historic’ Apple Announcement 

That sure as shit can’t be a reference to bigger iPhones, and it doesn’t sound like a watch that counts your steps and shows you notifications as they come in.

The Hidden Structure of the Apple Keynote 

Loved this piece by Dan Frommer at Quartz:

One of Apple’s most successful products — which rarely gets recognized as such — is made not of aluminum and glass, but of words and pictures. The Apple keynote is the tool the company uses a few times a year to unveil its other products to millions of people.

To understand their hidden structure, Quartz reviewed more than a dozen Apple keynotes, logging and analyzing key elements. Here’s what we found.

iOS Simulator Shows Possibility of iPad-Like Landscape Apps on 5.5-Inch iPhone 

Sounds exactly right to me. The thing is, Apple practically telegraphed this sort of thing in Session 216 at WWDC this year (“Building Adaptive Apps with UIKit”). The key to understanding it is that it’s not running an iPad app layout on an iPhone, but rather running an iPad-like layout. It’s not like with the iPad Air and Mini where you have the same layout at different scales. It’s an adaptive layout, where the scale remains the same as a regular iPhone, but the extra space on the big iPhone, in landscape, is used to show multiple columns.

Recode: ‘CVS and Walgreens Expected to Accept Apple iPhone Mobile Payments’ 

I’d call them “Apple mobile payments”, not “Apple iPhone mobile payments”. Otherwise, this sounds, uh, right on target.

The Talk Show: ‘Very Few Outhouses Anymore’ 

Speaking of podcasts, here’s one to occupy your time and mind while waiting for tomorrow’s much-anticipated Apple special event. Special guest Jason Snell joins me to discuss wearables, big-ass iPhones, what people tend to get wrong when expecting the next big thing, and more.

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Just The Tip 

The second season of my favorite podcast, and the only one which has ever addressed the issue of yours truly’s taste in men’s swimwear, is in full swing. I recommend subscribing.

Amazon Cuts Price of Fire Phone to 99 Cents 

If they were willing to go this low, why not start at this price six weeks ago, when people actually cared? My guess: this thing is such a dud that they’re just trying to dump inventory now.

Laugh It Up, Fuzzball 

Brian X. Chen:

To deal with concerns that a bigger phone will make typing with one hand difficult (the current iPhone has a four-inch screen), some changes to the design of the iPhones’ user interface will allow people to type or use apps with just one hand; there will be a one-handed mode that can be switched on and off, two employees said.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, Oh, that can’t be. Samsung tried that and it was ridiculous. Haha, the New York Times got punked.

The thing is, I’m not laughing. You wanted Apple to make a 5.5-inch iPhone? This is what you get.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha 

Exactly like I said a few months ago: Samsung doesn’t copy Apple nearly as well as Xiaomi does.

Charlie Rose Interview With Jony Ive and Marc Newson 

Worth another look given today’s news.

Timepieces Designed by Marc Newson 

Food for thought.

Pixate 

My thanks to Pixate for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Pixate is a mobile development tool that allows designers to visually define sophisticated animations and interactions that come to life in real-time on iOS and Android devices as 100 percent native prototypes. Native UI code, not web views.

Pixate is in private preview release currently, and working for great design teams from companies like Apple, Google, Yahoo, and Twitter. They’ve got a special offer for DF readers: sign up now to get on the waiting list and you’ll get a free month of service when it launches.

Marc Newson to Join Apple on Jony Ive’s Design Team 

Anyone else starting to get the feeling that Tuesday’s event might not be just about iPhones?

Is Switzerland Fucked? 

Nick Bilton, writing for the NYT:

While we don’t have much of an idea what the coveted iWatch will look like, I was able to glean one small detail from people at Apple who work on the company’s wearables.

According to a designer who works at Apple, Jonathan Ive, Apple’s design chief, in bragging about how cool he thought the iWatch was shaping up to be, gleefully said Switzerland is in trouble — though he chose a much bolder term for “trouble” to express how he thought the watchmaking nation might be in a tough predicament when Apple’s watch comes out.

Sure sounds like a watch, in particular, not a wearable, in general.

Yours truly, back in June:

If Apple is indeed making a wearable device that goes on your wrist, it should look like something you’d want to wear before you even see what it does.

(Betteridge’s Law holds, of course, that Switzerland is not in fact fucked.)

‘The Problem With Apple’s Juice’ 

Jessica Lessin, writing for The Information (paywall, alas)

In the build-up to the new Apple Watch, it is easy to get seduced by the rumored features. Curved screen! Wireless charging! Jony Ive thinks it’s slick!

But — and I hate to burst everyone’s bubble here — the appeal of the world’s most highly anticipated wearable computer is going to come down to something a lot more mundane: battery life.

And I have some bad news. I think it is going to be disappointing. People who have talked to Apple about the watch said that Apple employees have set low expectations. Maybe it’s Apple sandbagging. Maybe the battery life really is bad. We’ll learn more on Tuesday at the big unveiling and, eventually, when it ships next year.

If true, and it’s really a “watch”, that’s a problem. If it’s something more like a wearable iPod Nano, maybe not so much. But Lessin is saying it’s a watch.

[Retracted] ‘Just Photoshop in the Missing 90 Degrees’ 
Motorola’s promotional image of the Moto 270 shows the entire display filled in down at the 6 o’clock marker. That’s one way to solve the problem.

Ends up it only renders this way in Safari. Load the same page in Chrome, and when the animation finishes, it includes the flat tire.

Tim Cook Says Apple to Add Security Alerts for iCloud Users 

Daisuke Wakabayashi, writing for the WSJ:

In his first interview on the subject, Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook said celebrities’ iCloud accounts were compromised when hackers correctly answered security questions to obtain their passwords, or when they were victimized by a phishing scam to obtain user IDs and passwords.

He said none of the Apple IDs and passwords leaked from the company’s servers.

To make such leaks less likely, Mr. Cook said Apple will alert users via email and push notifications when someone tries to change an account password, restore iCloud data to a new device, or when a device logs into an account for the first time.

Until now, users got an email when someone tried to change a password or log in for the first time from an unknown Apple device; there were no notifications for restoring iCloud data.

That Cook would take time this week, in the run-up to Tuesday’s event, to address this says to me he’s taking it pretty damn seriously.

Joanna Stern Reviews the Moto 270 

Joanna Stern:

And the problem for women like me, with thin wrists, is that the watch may sound small — 1.8 inches in diameter and just a half-inch thick — but it almost looks like I grabbed a clock off the wall and strapped it to my arm.

Of course, size wasn’t an issue for everyone who tried it on. It looked decent on my father’s medium-size wrist, and just right on my co-worker’s extra-large one.

Motorola says it is working on smaller versions, but that makes me concerned about battery life: Even this big, honking model had to be charged twice a day. Most days, after charging it overnight, I had to put it back on its wireless charging cradle by 4 p.m. If only the large black circle could also work as a sundial so I could still tell the time when the battery dies.

So it’s way too big for at least half the population and has to be charged twice a day.

Good luck.

Side Note to Those of You Seeing Wacky Fonts on DF Using Chrome on Windows 

It’s a bug in Chrome that hit when they switched to a new font renderer on Windows. Hopefully they’ll fix it soon.

The Moto 270 Goes on Sale Today 

Congratulations to Motorola and Google for beating my joke by four days.

Update: Maybe they won’t beat my joke. I said “shipping”, and they’re quoting pick-up at Best Buy in “3-5 days”.

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The Daring Fireball Linked List is a daily list of interesting links and brief commentary, updated frequently but not frenetically. Call it a “link log”, or “linkblog”, or just “a good way to dick around on the Internet for a few minutes a day”.

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