Apple Is Privately Pushing Paid App Developers to Move to Subscriptions 

Interesting story by Kif Leswing for Business Insider, regarding a private meeting Apple held with indie developers in New York last year:

The new way Apple wanted to promote: Instead of users paying for apps once, they’d pay on a regular basis, putting money into developer coffers on a regular schedule. Apple would still get a 30% cut of the subscription’s cost, but if a customer continued to subscribe after a year, Apple’s cut would go down to 15%.

At the meeting, Apple underscored that the app model was changing. The meeting touched on topics including launching, customer acquisition, testing and marketing, engagement, retention, monetization, and paid search ads.

An Apple representative said at the meeting that paid apps represent 15% of total app sales and is on the decline, according to a person who was there who did not want to be identified to maintain their relationship with Apple.

Up front paid apps are going the way of the dodo. Whether you think that’s good or bad, it doesn’t matter. That’s where things are going.

Penn Jillette, in Conversation 

Penn Jillette, in a terrific interview with David Marchese for Vulture:

Q: But why is the audience willing to get emotionally engaged even after you’ve explicitly said the trick is done with thread?

A: It’s because there’s a secret that I would like to take credit for uncovering: The audience is smart. That’s all. Our goal when we started was “Let’s do a magic show for people smarter than us.” No other magicians have ever said that sentence. I hated the whole idea that some smarmy motherfucker who couldn’t get laid was out there saying, “I can do this; you can’t.” So when Teller and I first got together I said, “I want to do a magic show that’s honest and has complete respect for the audience.” And when you start being honest with the audience, they start to play a game within themselves. Here’s an example that kills me: People who have just talked to Teller will come over to me after the show and say, “I think it’s great that Teller never says anything.” Internalizing a counterfactual is just something people can do.

I absolutely love Penn and Teller. I’ve seen their show in Vegas at least four times, maybe five, and I never tire of it because it’s exactly what he says it is. Honest and respectful of the audience’s intelligence. And damn entertaining.

(A few years ago, I was chosen from the audience by Teller to go on stage for a trick in which they made my iPhone disappear. It wound up inside a plastic bag inside a dead fish inside an ice box under an audience member’s seat.)

‘Bribes, Backdoor Deals, and Pay to Play: How Bad Rosé Took Over’ 

Victoria James, writing for Bon Appétit:

My introduction to pay to play occurred after I’d just published a book on rosé. I was approached by one of the top three rosé brands. They were looking to partner with me and Piora, the since-closed Michelin-starred restaurant where I was the wine director. A few emails were sent before the in-person shakedown. At the tiny restaurant, I was bombarded with drop-ins from these reps trying to strong-arm me into representing their brand. The deal was that they would give me a couple thousand in cash to be an ambassador, and I would have to buy their rosé to pour by the glass for the summer. If I needed to make better margins, like making $10 off a glass of rosé versus making $5 off a glass of rosé, they also offered to drive by and drop off a couple of cases of free product. Horrified, I turned down the deal.

Sommeliers around New York have told me they’ve been offered incentives from big brands too. Wineries will come into the restaurant and swipe their credit cards, theoretically expensing a meal. In reality, the swipe is a bonus, with no meal actually taking place. Other sommeliers mentioned that brands will drop off a free case of wine or offer to supplement the somm’s income with funds from their bosses. Someone even called it “mafia-style shit”.

I had no idea until a few weeks ago just how popular rosé has become. What a racket — and unsurprising that the stuff the big brands are pushing is mediocre at best.

New Samsung Galaxy Watches Are Still Much Larger Than Apple Watches 

Samsung is sticking with round faces — you certainly can’t call these ripoffs of Apple Watch. But I think that’s a mistake for a digital watch. At 42 and 46mm, both sizes are much larger (and heavier) than Apple Watches. Because Apple measures its watches vertically, they sound closer in size than they actually are. A 42mm Apple Watch is 36mm wide, and a 38mm Apple Watch is just 33mm wide. Apple remains the only company making smartwatches for women and men with small wrists.

Funding Not Secured: Musk’s Explanations About Taking Tesla Private Do Not Work 

Linette Lopez, writing for Business Insider:

Elon Musk has written a blog post explaining why he said last week on Twitter that he might take Tesla private at $420 a share. “Funding secured,” he declared in the tweet.

But after reading Musk’s new post, the only conclusion to be drawn is that funding was, in fact, not secured. And that could spell serious trouble for Musk.

Isn’t it abundantly clear that Musk’s tweet was reckless, and the last week has been Musk and Tesla’s board of directors desperately trying to do damage control?

Apple Removes Group FaceTime From iOS 12 and MacOS 10.14 Mojave Betas, Says It’ll Launch Later This Year 

Juli Clover, reporting for MacRumors:

In release notes for both macOS Mojave and iOS 12, Apple says the feature has been removed from the initial releases of macOS Mojave and iOS 12 and “will ship in a future software update later this fall.”

With the release of iOS 11, Apple also ended up delaying several features that were initially announced as part of the update until later in the year, including Apple Pay Cash, AirPlay 2, and Messages in iCloud, three significant iOS 11 features that did not come out until months after iOS 11 launched.

Right about now is the time when Apple needs to cut any features that won’t be ready in time for the iPhone launch next month. These delays are disappointing, yes, but I actually prefer this policy of holding off on new features until they’re ready rather than shipping them in a buggy state just because it’s September and time for new iPhones to be released.

‘But the Plans Were on Display…’ 

From Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

“But the plans were on display…”

“On display? I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them.”

“That’s the display department.”

“With a flashlight.”

“Ah, well, the lights had probably gone.”

“So had the stairs.”

“But look, you found the notice, didn’t you?”

“Yes,” said Arthur, “yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”

DF reader Brian Ashe sent this, correctly pointing out that it pretty much nails Google’s approach to turning off location tracking.

‘Vomit Fraud’ 

Interesting story from Fargo, North Dakota:

“Vomit fraud” is a growing problem in many parts of the country. The Miami Herald reported this summer that multiple Uber passengers are filing lawsuits after drivers falsely charged passengers, claiming they had to clean up vomit, urine, blood and other bodily fluids.

The Marquarts also discovered the police treat the fraud as a civil matter instead of a criminal one because of the way the ride services write user agreements, so they don’t investigate. The Marquarts learned Lyft doesn’t appear overly concerned its drivers are committing fraud. They also don’t believe drivers who get caught face any repercussions.

Great detective work in this story, proving the Lyft driver had faked the “vomit”.

AP: Google Tracks Your Location Even When You Disable ‘Location History’ 

Ryan Nakashima, reporting for the Associated Press:

Storing your minute-by-minute travels carries privacy risks and has been used by police to determine the location of suspects — such as a warrant that police in Raleigh, North Carolina, served on Google last year to find devices near a murder scene. So the company will let you “pause” a setting called Location History.

Google says that will prevent the company from remembering where you’ve been. Google’s support page on the subject states: “You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.”

That isn’t true. Even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking.

The saga of Apple Maps’s launch is long and complicated, but Google’s desire to track our location was at the heart of it. Apple wanted new features like turn-by-turn directions and vector graphic map tiles; in exchange, Google wanted iOS to allow Google to track user location more pervasively.

“If you’re going to allow users to turn off something called ‘Location History,’ then all the places where you maintain location history should be turned off,” Mayer said. “That seems like a pretty straightforward position to have.”

Google says it is being perfectly clear. […]

To stop Google from saving these location markers, the company says, users can turn off another setting, one that does not specifically reference location information. Called “Web and App Activity” and enabled by default, that setting stores a variety of information from Google apps and websites to your Google account.

Google is saying, with a straight face, that it’s perfectly clear that disabling the feature named “Location History” does not prevent Google from tracking your location history. There’s nothing surprising about this, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t shameful.


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Joanna Stern Test Drives Magic Leap 

Joanna Stern, writing for The Wall Street Journal:

The Lightwear glasses make digital objects sometimes look so real that they play tricks on your mind. I certainly didn’t think the flying robot I placed in the corner was genuine, yet the steam coming out of his jets looked like it was from a tea kettle. During one demo, I picked up an actual chess piece just to confirm it wasn’t another illusion.

What makes Magic Leap’s objects so believable is how they fit into our world. Cameras and other sensors in the headset scan surrounding objects and surfaces — from your arms to the chair’s armrest. When I placed a virtual orange fish between two actual couch pillows, it swam back and forth between them.

Fun video, too (as usual).

Reuters’s Curious Sourcing on Doug Field Joining Project Titan

I don’t break a lot of news — it’s just not what Daring Fireball is about, or what I’m interested in. But, once in a while, I get my hands on a scoop, like last night’s piece about former Tesla engineering head Doug Field returning to Apple to work with Bob Mansfield in the Titan group. The news was quickly picked up by dozens of other outlets, almost all of whom graciously credited me (or just “Daring Fireball”, which is fine) with (a) breaking the news that Field was back at Apple, and (b) the specific news that Field is working with Mansfield in the Titan group. Apple confirmed to me only that Field was back at Apple. That Field has joined Titan — though unsurprising given his experience working with Mansfield and at Tesla — came from my own unnamed sources.

This Reuters story by Stephen Nellis, however, presents itself as original reporting:

Doug Field, who stepped down as the senior vice president of engineering at Telsa Inc last month, is returning to Apple Inc, Apple told Reuters on Thursday.

Field will be working with Apple executive Bob Mansfield, who has been heading up Apple’s self-driving car program, Project Titan. Field and Mansfield previously worked together on engineering Apple’s line of Mac computers.

My piece was published at 11:13p EDT; Nellis’s Reuters story was published 12:39a. Note too that the “Apple told Reuters on Thursday” attribution is only in the first paragraph. There is no attribution for the information in the second paragraph. Apple would not confirm that to me, just two hours prior, and though it’s certainly possible that Nellis had his own independent sources for that information — hundreds of employees within Apple were aware of Field’s return — there is no “according to sources familiar with the situation” attribution.

Also, Field’s previous employer was Tesla, not Telsa.

Update: The second paragraph of Nellis’s story now reads:

Field will be working with Apple executive Bob Mansfield, who has been heading up Apple’s self-driving car program, Project Titan, according to Daring Fireball, a technology news website that earlier reported Field’s move.

There’s always an update when I point these things out, but I genuinely thank Reuters and Nellis for fixing this. 

Doug Field Returns to Apple After Leaving Tesla

Here’s some interesting hiring news I’ve heard through the little birdie grapevine:1 Doug Field — who left Tesla in May after overseeing Model 3 production — has returned to Apple, working in Bob Mansfield’s project Titan group. Apple spokesperson Tom Neumayr confirmed with me only that Field has returned to Apple, but no one should find it surprising that he’s working on Titan.

Field previously worked at Apple as a VP of Mac hardware engineering before leaving for Tesla in 2013. So he spent years working closely (and successfully) with Mansfield on Mac hardware, and spent the last few years as senior VP of engineering at the world’s premier electric carmaker. That makes Field a seemingly perfect fit for Titan.

I wouldn’t read too much into any single hire, and the employee exchange program between Apple and Tesla continues to flow in both directions. But I think it’s an interesting hire, primarily because it suggests to me that Apple still has an interest in making actual vehicles, despite reports that the company has scaled back the project to merely make autonomous systems for inclusion in vehicles made by other companies. That rumor never really made sense to me anyway — Apple’s modus operandi has always been to make the whole widget. Apple makes products, not components. Field returning to Apple also suggests to me that under Mansfield’s leadership, the Titan project has regained its footing after its infamously rocky start.

And you have to love the idea of any project being led by guys named Bob and Doug, eh

  1. Mixed metaphor, I know, but I’m going with it. ↩︎

Apple Defends Its Decision to Allow Infowars in the App Store 

John Paczkowski, writing for BuzzFeed:

On Apple’s podcast platform, Infowars was presented with an easily reviewed episode list — a concrete thing that could be used to support a determination that its content was/wasn’t in violation of the company’s policies. The Infowars app is different. It streams video broadcasts, which means they are ephemeral in the app and on Apple’s platform. That the same episodes are readily available on the Infowars site doesn’t matter. In order for Apple to act on a violation, there needs to be evidence that one occurred on its platform. Simply put: If Jones has violated the company’s rules, it has yet to catch him in the act.

This distinction could explain why Apple was so quick to remove almost all of Infowars’ podcasts in the first place. Given that the company didn’t host the podcasts to begin with, the removal was technically not a content purge and something more akin to removing a link. In other words, Apple’s enforcement, which caused tech’s biggest platforms to follow suit, was something of a content moderation sleight of hand — a cosmetic change rather than an actual deletion.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this the last few days. I suspect that Paczkowski has it right, that Apple is more willing to remove a podcast because iTunes doesn’t host podcasts — it’s just a directory. Whereas if they remove the app there’s no way around it. I think this distinction is weak sauce though — iTunes isn’t technically a gatekeeper to podcasts, but the truth is that the iTunes podcast directory is the de facto standard index of podcasts. Getting de-listed from iTunes is a huge deal.

The web is the world’s open platform. The fact that the App Store is a closed platform that Apple controls is a feature, not a bug. If Apple removed the app, Infowars’s website would still work in Safari. It really doesn’t make sense to me that Apple would de-list the podcasts but not remove the app that contains the exact same content. And as Paczkowski reports, in the aftermath of this highly-publicized kerfuffle, Infowars’s iOS app has risen from 47th to 3rd in the “News” category. To me it would make more sense to have kept both the podcast and the app than to remove one but not the other.

Update: I wonder if this is less about Infowars specifically and more about Apple being reluctant to draw attention to their total control of the App Store. Google’s recent lashing from EU regulators hinged largely on the Play Store. I know Apple loves having control over the App Store, but in today’s climate — polarized politics combined with increasing regulatory scrutiny of tech giants — I suspect they don’t want to draw attention to that control.

Kara Swisher: ‘Rules Won’t Save Twitter. Values Will.’ 

Kara Swisher, in her new column at The New York Times:

I am down with Mr. Dorsey on the part about different viewpoints being expressed in a civil and even moderately testy way. There’s some value, after all, in force-reading all those opinions on whether a Colorado baker should make gay people cake or not. But the loosey-goosey way that he and Twitter’s rolling series of leaders have run the platform over the years (you can read all about that in Nick Bilton’s telenovela of a book, Hatching Twitter) has turned it from what could have been an unprecedented discussion and news platform into the last big refuge of the repugnant.

So it’s somewhat odd for Mr. Dorsey to be lecturing the rest of us about principles at this moment of high agitation, brought on in no small part by the twitchy, meaner-than-ever screamfest of Twitter itself.

While principles and rules will help in an open platform, it is values that Mr. Dorsey should really be talking about. By values, I mean a code that requires making hard choices — curating your offerings, which was something Apple got made fun of for doing, back when it launched the App Store, by the open-is-best crowd.

I agree with every word of this, and it’s exactly why I think Apple’s decision to remove Infowars’s podcasts from the iTunes directory but allow their app to remain in the App Store doesn’t hold water.

Apple Orders New Comedy Series From Charlie Day and Rob McElhenney 

Joe Otterson, reporting for Variety:

Apple has given a straight-to-series order to a half-hour scripted comedy from Rob McElhenney and Charlie Day, Variety has learned.

The series is set in a video game development studio, with McElhenney also attached to star in addition to writing and executive producing alongside Day. The series marks the duo’s first collaboration as writers since “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” McElhenney co-created “It’s Always Sunny” with both he and Day starring and serving as executive producers on that show.

It’s Always Sunny is one of my favorite shows. What I find particularly interesting about this deal is that if this new show is anything like It’s Always Sunny, Apple is not shying away from R-rated original content.

Dylan Byers Reports Tim Cook and Eddy Cue Decided to Remove Alex Jones’s Infowars Podcasts From iTunes, Facebook and YouTube Followed Apple’s Lead 

Dylan Byers, in his Pacific newsletter:

• Amid mounting public pressure to address Jones’ hate speech, Apple’s Tim Cook and Eddy Cue met over the weekend and decided to pull five of Jones’ podcasts from their platform, sources familiar with the matter told me.

• Cook and Cue decided to let Jones’ InfoWars app remain available in the app store because they felt it did not run afoul of their policy. […]

• Zuckerberg only moved to remove these pages after learning about Apple’s decision, Facebook sources said. That is why the pages were removed at 3 a.m. Pacific Time.

• YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki and Spotify’s Daniel Ek similarly moved to ban some of Jones’ content only after learning about Apple’s decision.

• There was no coordination between Apple, Facebook and any of the other tech firms, sources familiar with the matter said. The decisions were made independently.

Assuming Byers’s reporting is solid, there we have it: Apple led the way.

Logitech Introduces $70 ‘Powered’ Charging Stand for iPhones 


Logitech is changing the way you charge your iPhone with today’s introduction of the Logitech Powered Wireless Charging Stand. Designed in collaboration with Apple, Powered is a wireless charging stand for iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X that makes it easy to charge and use your iPhone at the same time. […]

Powered delivers up to 7.5W charging for iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and X only and up to 5W charging for all other Qi-enabled devices.

“Designed in collaboration with Apple” is interesting, especially since Apple’s own AirPower charging mat still isn’t shipping. This is the second recent Logitech product co-designed by Apple, after this year’s Crayon stylus.

Wired Gets Hands-On With Magic Leap 

Jessi Hempel, writing for Wired:

In retrospect, Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz realizes that all the hype was a big mistake. “I think we were arrogant,” he says.

You don’t fucking say.

The problem, we figured out, was the fit. Each set of goggles comes with five nose pieces and the ability to add prescription lenses. Magic Leap’s experience is so closely linked to a person’s physiology, these goggles will need to fit perfectly to work. This is a challenge for a company trying to introduce a new type of tech. So, Magic Leap has contracted with former Apple executive Ron Johnson’s startup, Enjoy, which sends customer service people to deliver new tech gadgets and help users set them up. Enjoy representatives will deliver every Magic Leap headset, fit it, and provide a tutorial on how it works.

Yeah, that sounds like something that will scale well.

Apple Removed Infowars From iTunes Podcast Directory, Then YouTube and Facebook Followed Suit 

John Paczkowski, reporting for BuzzFeed:

Apple moved first, striking the entire library for five of Infowars’ six podcasts from its iTunes and Podcasts apps. Among the podcasts, which were removed from Apple’s iTunes directory, are the show War Room and the popular Alex Jones Show podcast, which is hosted daily by the prominent conspiracy theorist.

After that, platforms that have come under far more scrutiny for hosting Jones and his content — Facebook and YouTube — quickly followed suit after long and tortured deliberations. Spotify also did the same.

In all, the actions will currently seriously limit Jones’s ability to reach his massive audience. Twitter and Periscope remain one of the sole major platforms to still host Jones.

YouTube’s enforcement action will have the greatest impact on Jones. His channel had nearly 2.5 million subscribers and more than 1 billion views over its lifetime. It killed most if not all of the videos hosted on Jones’s website.

I’m curious if these companies did this in cooperation, or if Apple acted alone and Facebook and YouTube followed in their wake. It sounds like this was Apple acting on its own and YouTube and Facebook followed their lead.

Update: Also curious: Apple only removed Infowars from their podcast directory — the Infowars app remains in the App Store. Different standards? Seems hard to justify de-listing the podcasts for “hate speech” but leaving the app in place when it contains the same content.

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Adam Engst: ‘Apple’s Termination of App Store Affiliate Payments Is Unnecessary, Mean-Spirited, and Harmful’ 

Adam Engst, writing at TidBITS:

In the end, I’m disappointed in Apple. Not surprised, since Apple has never acknowledged that the media plays a vital role in the broader Apple ecosystem, but disappointed that a company that puts so much effort into bringing joy to users can simultaneously behave so callously to some of its greatest supporters.

Newsrooms Must Stand Up to Targeted Campaigns of Harassment 

The Verge editorial team, on the bullshit alt-right campaign against newly-hired NYT editorial board member Sarah Jeong:

Online trolls and harassers want us, The Times, and other newsrooms to waste our time by debating their malicious agenda. They take tweets and other statements out of context because they want to disrupt us and harm individual reporters. The strategy is to divide and conquer by forcing newsrooms to disavow their colleagues one at a time. This is not a good-faith conversation; it’s intimidation.

So we’re not going to fall for these disingenuous tactics. And it’s time other newsrooms learn to spot these hateful campaigns for what they are: attempts to discredit and undo the vital work of journalists who report on the most toxic communities on the internet. We are encouraged that our colleagues at The New York Times are standing by Sarah in the face of feigned outrage.

Good thread on Twitter by John Scalzi:

It’s really frustrating to me that more people don’t understand that racist/alt-right people have gamified their rhetoric; they’re not interested in discussion, they’re slapping down cards from a “Debate: The Gathering” stack, and the only goal is taking heads.

Apple Closes With Market Cap Over $1 Trillion 

Jack Nicas has a good piece in The Times looking back at the last 20 years of Apple history, in light of today’s news. A few landmarks:

  • 1996: Apple’s market cap sunk as low as $3 billion before the NeXT reunification.
  • 2007: Apple was worth $73 billion when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone.
  • 2011: Apple was worth $346 billion when Tim Cook took the helm as CEO.

Apple closed today with a market cap of $1.002 trillion. That “.002” looks insignificant but represents $2 billion — about what the entire company was worth in 1996.

Everything Bad About Facebook Is Bad for the Same Reason 

Nikhil Sonnad, writing for Quartz:

Facebook didn’t intend for any of this to happen. It just wanted to connect people. But there is a thread running from Perkins’ death to religious violence in Myanmar and the company’s half-assed attempts at combating fake news. Facebook really is evil. Not on purpose. In the banal kind of way.

Underlying all of Facebook’s screw-ups is a bumbling obliviousness to real humans. The company’s singular focus on “connecting people” has allowed it to conquer the world, making possible the creation of a vast network of human relationships, a source of insights and eyeballs that makes advertisers and investors drool.

But the imperative to “connect people” lacks the one ingredient essential for being a good citizen: Treating individual human beings as sacrosanct. To Facebook, the world is not made up of individuals, but of connections between them.

Terrific essay.

Apple Will Soon Remove iOS and Mac Apps From Affiliate Program 

Stephen Hackett on Apple’s decision to remove apps from their affiliate program:

Another angle here to consider is money. Payments made to people linking to apps with affiliate links comes out of Apple’s share of revenue generated by app sales and in-app purchases. How much money it costs them is unknown, but the idea that the reasons behind this move could be financial in nature feels pretty gross. Apple is a for-profit company, and it may have a real bottom-line reason to close this program, but sometimes doing the right thing comes with a cost.

I don’t know what the explanation is, but sites like TouchArcade that are currently dependent on App Store affiliate program revenue are now in a tough place. I’d love to know why Apple made this decision. I don’t get the argument that it’s about Apple pinching pennies and not wanting to pay the affiliate fees. The whole point of affiliate programs is that they drive enough additional sales to increase revenue. That’s why Amazon has an affiliate program and heavily promotes it.

The Talk Show: ‘Little Q&A’ 

Answering actual questions from actual listeners.

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Mac Rumors: ‘Apple Sold Fewest Macs in Any Quarter Since 2010 as Nearly Entire Lineup Was Outdated’ 

I love it when an entire story fits in the headline.

The Bullshit Web 

This piece by Nick Heer is magnificent, every word of it.

iPhone X Remains a Hit 

Jason Snell:

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

Here’s some claim chowder for the books — Dave Gershgorn writing for Quartz in April: “Almost Nobody Wants the iPhone X”. Put it on your calendar — next year starting in January, the same dipshits will be telling us this year’s new iPhones are a flop, too.

Snell, on Apple’s ever-increasing “Services” revenue:

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

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

I think it’s even worse than that. I think Apple’s (Cook’s?) interest in increasing revenue from Services is keeping them from doing what’s right — increasing the base iCloud storage from 5 GB to something more reasonable.

Milton Glaser’s Proposed Logo for Trump’s ‘Space Force’ 

Paul Kafasis:

An idiotic idea doesn’t deserve branding this good.

I would buy this on a t-shirt in a heartbeat.

Samsung’s Anti-iPhone X Ads 

Rado Slavov, writing for PhoneArena:

Instead, Samsung decided to focus on the negative marketing and go after its rival. What’s happening is Samsung is trying to play a finite game here — its objective is to win the battle of this smartphone generation, which comes at the expense of its own brand strength and integrity. Such unprovoked aggressive behavior is never typical of the winning side; it’s most often exhibited by the losing team, which, realizing that the final seconds of the match are ticking away, starts playing in a rough and desperate, pissed off way. After the confident Galaxy S8 launch, surely the missed expectations for this year’s Galaxy S9 have put some pressure on the consumer products team. But again, Samsung is not playing the game it should be playing, and its behavior is atypical for a gigantic tech company that’s supposedly a market leader and innovator.

Samsung should be less concerned about iPhones and more concerned about setting its own phone apart from other Android phones. What makes a high-end Samsung phone stand apart? Samsung keeps banging the drum about the iPhone X notch looking silly, but they’re only further emphasizing a distinguishing iPhone characteristic — one that other Android handset makers are racing to copy.

The Japanese Ghost Characters Haunting Unicode 

Paul McCann:

In 1978 Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry established the encoding that would later be known as JIS X 0208, which still serves as an important reference for all Japanese encodings. However, after the JIS standard was released people noticed something strange - several of the added characters had no obvious sources, and nobody could tell what they meant or how they should be pronounced. Nobody was sure where they came from. These are what came to be known as the ghost characters (幽霊文字).

I love a story like this.


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The Talk Show: ‘Cut That Mustache With Scissors’ 

Special guest Marco Arment returns to the show for a brief discussion about the new MacBook Pro models and the state of Apple’s MacBook lineup.

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Ken Kocienda’s ‘Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs’ 

Ken Kocienda:

I wrote a book about my Apple career. Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs. It’s coming out on September 4. You can pre-order today.

In the book, I tell stories about developing the original iPhone, iPad, and Safari web browser, and I give my personal view on what made the Apple product culture special.

I’ve read an advance copy of the book, and for now I’ll just say this: it’s extraordinary. Take my word for it, go ahead and pre-order a copy now.

‘The Big Business of Being Gwyneth Paltrow’ 

I did not expect to get far into a feature story on Gwyneth Paltrow and her lifestyle company Goop, but I found this piece utterly compelling. Well-observed and incredibly well-written story by Taffy Brodesser-Akner for The New York Times Magazine. If you’re looking for weekend reading material, queue this one up.

Different US Election Maps Tell ‘Different Versions of the Truth’ 

Issie Lapowsky, writing for Wired:

Conservatives replying to Yingst’s tweet interpreted the expanse of red as proof of their party’s dominance throughout all levels of government. Liberals viewed the map as a distortion, masking the fact that most of that redness covers sparsely populated land, with relatively few voters.

In reality, both sides are right, says Ken Field. A self-proclaimed “cartonerd,” Field is a product engineer at the mapping software company Esri and author of a guidebook for mapmakers called Cartography. The problem, he says, isn’t with people’s partisan interpretation of the map. The problem is believing that any single map can ever tell the whole story. “People see maps of any type, and particularly election maps, as the result, the outcome, but there are so many different types of maps available that can portray results in shades of the truth,” Field says. “It’s a question of the level of detail that people are interested in understanding.”

Really interesting examples of data visualization in this piece.

MoviePass Couldn’t Afford to Pay for Movie Tickets on Thursday 

CNN Money:

Helios and Matheson, the parent company of the popular movie subscription service, said that it had a service outage on Thursday because it couldn’t afford to pay for movie tickets. The company borrowed $5 million in cash Friday to pay its merchant and fulfillment processors, according to a regulatory filing.

Helios and Matheson missed a payment to one of its fulfillment processors, and that contractor temporarily refused to process payments for MoviePass.

Next idea for Helios and Matheson: First CityWide Change Bank.

Om Malik on E-Cigarette Darling Juul Labs 

Om Malik:

From Business Insider (which called it iPhone of e-cigarettes) to CrunchBase, everyone seems to marvel over their growth rates, their post-Unicorn valuations, and jaw-dropping success at raising capital. And very rarely have I seen anyone stand up and point out that it is no different than traditional tobacco peddlers like Marlboro and Camel. They are peddling nicotine-based addiction. By focusing on charming founders, their backgrounds, large amount of funds raised and crazy valuations, no one is asking the right question: why are we supporting this company that is essentially Camel 2.0?

Addiction is a profitable and high-growth business. Ask the cartels selling other addictive products. “And is it an ethical business?,” asks Crunchbase. “We can’t answer the latter question here as we’re not equipped for it.” Yes, you are! Any halfway decent person can see that tobacco and nicotine industries are driven by greed and have preyed on human frailty.

Agree with every word of this.

New iPhone X Ad: ‘Unleash’ 

What’s most interesting to me about this is that Apple is still producing big-budget special-effects laden ads for iPhone X, even though new iPhones are almost certainly coming in two months.

Update: Todd Vaziri has an interesting observation about this spot:

Apple’s ads don’t usually feature customers using iPhones in an even-remotely unsafe manner, like playing a game while walking down the street. This feels like a bit of a departure.

Facebook Stock Falls 24 Percent in After-Hours Trading on Forecast for Slowing Growth, Rising Expenses 

Munsif Vengattil, reporting for Reuters:

Facebook Inc’s stock fell as much as 24 percent after hours on Wednesday over concerns about the impact of privacy issues on the social media company’s business, with executives warning that revenue growth would slow and expenses would rise.

The plummeting stock price wiped out about $150 billion in market capitalization in under two hours.

These after-hour trading plummets usually correct themselves to a large degree before regular trading hours, and, as I type this, Facebook is only down 20 percent. But: couldn’t happen to a nicer company.

Update: Two hours into regular trading today and Facebook shares remain down 19 percent from close yesterday. Investors genuinely seem to fear Facebook’s future in a world where people’s eyes are open to online privacy concerns.

Apple Updates MacBook Pro Models With Touch Bar

Apple Newsroom:

Apple today updated MacBook Pro with faster performance and new pro features, making it the most advanced Mac notebook ever. The new MacBook Pro models with Touch Bar feature 8th-generation Intel Core processors, with 6-core on the 15-inch model for up to 70 percent faster performance and quad-core on the 13-inch model for up to two times faster performance — ideal for manipulating large data sets, performing complex simulations, creating multi-track audio projects or doing advanced image processing or film editing.

Already the most popular notebook for developers around the world, the new MacBook Pro can compile code faster and run multiple virtual machines and test environments easier than before. Additional updates include support for up to 32GB of memory, a True Tone display and an improved third-generation keyboard for quieter typing.

My top take-aways:

  • Today’s updates are indisputably aimed at genuine “pro” users. Only the high-end machines with the Touch Bar have been updated — the non-Touch-Bar 13-inch MacBook Pro (a.k.a. the MacBook Escape) and the just-plain MacBook are unchanged. Features like supporting 4 TB of SSD storage and 32 GB of RAM are not consumer features.

  • Only the new 15-inch MacBook Pro has the option of 32 GB of RAM. This makes sense — it’s a different Intel architecture that requires a bigger power supply and battery. The new 13-inch models still use LPDDR3 RAM; the new 15-inch models use DDR4 RAM.

  • These are the first Macs with True Tone displays. That’s not reason enough to upgrade for most people, but I’m so glad to see True Tone make its way to the Mac.

  • The big question on many people’s minds is the keyboards: Do they resolve the reliability issues that have surfaced ever since Apple switched to butterfly mechanisms? All Apple is saying is that the new keyboards were engineered to be quieter. But I think only time will tell whether the keyboards were also engineered to be more reliable. Maybe, as Apple says, the only problem they sought to solve was the noise. But, if they also sought to improve the reliability of the keyboards — to fix the problem where keys get stuck, among other problems — I think they would only admit to fixing the noise problem. Marketing-wise, I don’t think they would admit to a reliability problem in the existing butterfly keyboards (especially since they’re still selling second-generation keyboards in all non-TouchBar models), and legal-wise (given the fact that they’re facing multiple lawsuits regarding keyboard reliability) I don’t think they should admit to it. So whether they’ve attempted to address reliability problems along with the noise or not, I think they’d say the exact same thing today: only that they’ve made the keyboards quieter. I have no inside dope on this (yet?), but to me the reason for optimism is that they’re calling these keyboards “third-generation”, not just a quieter version of the second-generation butterfly-switch keyboards.

Apple held a hands-on event at their New York townhouse this week. I couldn’t make it, but Brian Heater at TechCrunch, Rene Ritchie at iMore, and Dieter Bohn at The Verge were there and all have good write-ups.