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The Font of Misinformation and Lies at Trump Campaign Rallies 

Interesting (and repulsive) visualization from The New York Times of Trump’s lies and misinformation in a recent stump speech. Black and white and red all over.

Om Malik: ‘Why Great Design Is Timeless’ 

Om Malik:

A lot of commentary has followed the launch of the iPhone 12, some of it praising Apple for going back to the old design and some complaining about Apple’s inability to do something different from a design perspective. Both sides miss the point: Enduring design doesn’t need constant reinterpretation. It needs tweaking, polishing, and subtle improvement. I think of the iPhone and its design language very similar to Porsche’s design language. Or, for that matter of a classic Leica camera.

I love the basic idea that the iPhone 4 is Apple’s equivalent of the Porsche 911.

‘50 Shades of Blue’ 

Basic Apple Guy:

Whether it’s Alaskan, Cape Cod, Cornflower, Cosmos, Delft, Denim, Linen, Midnight, Mist, Ocean, Royal, or Surf Blue, I’ve always fawned over the shades of Blue Apple has used across their accessory lineup. Apple has released dozens of blue accessories over the years, regularly refreshing colours in the fall, spring, and summer months, and will likely continue to release dozens more as the years roll on. But in this entry, I wanted to record a quick snapshot of the 10 (yes, TEN!) different blues Apple has currently listed across its product line.

This doesn’t include the no-adjective (but quite striking) blue of the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini and pacific blue of the iPhone 12 Pro and Pro Max, as Basic Apple Guy is counting only accessories here. But that brings to mind something I thought about over the weekend, after seeing this new spot for the new iPad Airs several times while watching baseball, and, alas, football. The spot emphasizes the new color options for the iPad Air, but also emphasizes the Magic Keyboard, which has no color options at all.

I get it that the Magic Keyboard is a serious accessory, seriously priced at $300. But isn’t it likely that some people would like to buy one in fun colors to match their iPads? Me, I’d still buy it in black/space gray, but it sure looks drab in this iPad Air commercial.

WSJ: ‘Health Agency Halts Coronavirus Ad Campaign, Leaving Santa Claus in the Cold’ 

Julie Wernau, James V. Grimaldi, and Stephanie Armour, reporting not for The Onion, I swear, but for The Wall Street Journal (News+):

A federal health agency halted a public-service coronavirus advertising campaign funded by $250 million in taxpayer money after it offered a special vaccine deal to an unusual set of essential workers: Santa Claus performers.

As part of the plan, a top Trump administration official wanted the Santa performers to promote the benefits of a Covid-19 vaccination and, in exchange, offered them early vaccine access ahead of the general public, according to audio recordings. Those who perform as Mrs. Claus and elves also would have been included.

The Department of Health and Human Services said Friday the Santa plan would be scrapped. The deal was the brainchild of the official, Michael Caputo, an HHS assistant secretary, who took a 60-day medical leave last month. […]

Ric Erwin, chairman of the Fraternal Order of Real Bearded Santas, called the news “extremely disappointing,” adding: “This was our greatest hope for Christmas 2020, and now it looks like it won’t happen.”

“I can handle things. I’m smart. Not like everybody says, like dumb. We’re not going to use just any Santas. Fuck those guys with the fake beards! No one’s gonna take a vaccine from them! We’re going straight to the Santas with real beards. Santas people can trust. I’m smart and I want respect!” —“Fredo” Caputo

Wild Finish to Last Night’s Game 4 of the World Series 

An outfielder boots an easy ball, a baserunner heading home trips and falls and starts crawling back to third until he realizes his coach is frantically telling him to turn around and go the other way again, a catcher who doesn’t even know where the ball he misplayed is, and a pitcher whose idea of backing up the play is to just … wander around — some strong Little League vibes on this, the most exciting sports play I’ve seen all year. Baseball.

Infolio 

My thanks to Infolio for sponsoring this week at DF. Infolio is a new, no-nonsense task management and collaboration app for smaller teams and individual use, designed with those working remotely in mind. Views include Kanban boards, table view with custom fields, calendar, collaborative visual spaces, project chats, and more. Infolio is completely free to use — not just to try. Think of Infolio as something in between Trello and AirTable — simple, but not simplistic. All done with a great eye for design.

Check out their demo video and try Infolio — for free — today.

Amazon Inexplicably Removes Apple Card From Payment Options 

Juli Clover, reporting for MacRumors:

Apple Card owners who had their Apple Cards stored in Amazon as a saved payment option this morning started noticing that the Apple Card has disappeared from the payment list.

Multiple MacRumors readers have notified us about the problem, and we’ve also been able to replicate it. Apple Cards are missing from the Amazon website and app and attempting to re-add one pops out an error message that credit card information is unable to be saved.

A few friends confirmed this happened to them. I have an Apple Card but never saved it to my Amazon account, but indeed, I can’t add it right now. Amazon support is telling people this is related to Apple Pay, because Amazon doesn’t accept Apple Pay, but that can’t be right because Apple Card works as a regular Mastercard. Must be a glitch, but what a pain in the ass, especially for anyone who relies on their Apple Card as their sole or primary credit card.

Update:

In a statement to MacRumors, an Amazon spokesperson said the following: “We are aware of this technical issue and are actively working to resolve it as soon as possible.”


The 2020 iPad Air

I’ve been using the new iPad Air for the last week, and, as is my wont with iPad reviews, I’m writing this on it. My personal iPad has been an 11-inch iPad Pro from late 2018. This new iPad Air looks and feels like the current 11-inch Pro’s spiritual sibling.

The 2018 and 2020 11-inch iPads Pro (1st and 2nd generation) are precisely identical in size and shape, camera systems aside. The new 10.9-inch iPad Air, with its single-lens rear camera system, is nearly identical to the 2018 11-inch iPad Pro, and uses the same basic industrial design: flat sides, round “edge-to-edge” displays, no home button. A glance at Apple’s iPad Compare page shows that the new iPad Air and both generations of 11-inch iPad Pro are the same height and width right down to the tenth of a millimeter. The one minute difference in size is that the new Air is 0.2 mm thicker. Hence, the new Air fits perfectly in the same Magic Keyboard as the 11-inch iPad Pros.

Side-by-side with an 11-inch iPad Pro, you can see that the bezel surrounding the display of the new 10.9-inch Air is slightly wider. It has to be — with the same size body but a slightly smaller (and, I presume, slightly less expensive) display, the bezel has to be ever so slightly thicker. In practice, when you’re not looking at them side-by-side, it’s not noticeable.

The only obvious-at-a-glance difference is that the new Air is available in colors that the iPad Pro is not — green, blue and rose gold — in addition to silver and space gray. Apple provided me the green one — it is charmingly minty.

ProMotion and the A14 vs. A12Z Chips

Comparing the displays of the new iPad Air to the iPad Pro, the 0.1-inch diagonal size difference is not significant. The maximum “typical” brightness (500 nits vs. 600 nits) doesn’t seem that significant to me either. But one difference is significant: the iPad Pro offers ProMotion — Apple’s name for dynamic refresh rates up to 120 Hz — and the iPad Air does not.

Apple introduced ProMotion to the iPad Pro over three years ago, in June 2017 — so long ago that those original ProMotion iPad Pros had home buttons. iPads Pro are still the only devices Apple makes with ProMotion, to the consternation of folks who were hoping to see the technology make it to iPhones this year.

With iPads, ProMotion offers two tangible benefits: smoother motion content (most notably scrolling and slow-motion videos) and lower-latency Pencil input. In addition to higher refresh rates (above 60 Hz), ProMotion also allows for lower refresh rates to save battery life. E.g. while playing a 30 FPS video, a ProMotion display should drop to 30 Hz.

Side-by-side I can definitely tell the difference. Scrolling is just nicer and smoother on the iPad Pro than the new iPad Air. And I think I could take the Pepsi Challenge and identify which iPad has ProMotion and which doesn’t from Apple Pencil latency alone.

There’s nothing bad about the iPad Air’s 60 Hz refresh rate or Pencil latency. But the Pro models are definitely nicer. That niceness is a significant part of what you’re paying for with an iPad Pro instead of the new Air. Here’s the pricing:

iPad Air 10.9″ (2020) iPad Pro 11″ (2020)
64 GB $600
128 GB $800
256 GB $750 $900
512 GB $1,100
1024 GB $1,300
Cellular +130 +150

It is unclear to me why cellular networking incurs a $150 charge on the iPad Pro but only $130 on the iPad Air, other than the fact that in addition to professional and premium, “Pro”, in Apple’s parlance, also simply means “more expensive”.

Storage upgrades across both the iPad Air and iPad Pro are $50 per 64 GB of additional capacity — except for the 1 TB iPad Pro, where 512 GB of additional storage costs just $200, only $25 per 64 GB. A veritable bargain. Comparing models with 256 GB of storage — the only storage tier available on both the Air and Pro iPads — shows that the iPad Air costs $150 less than the iPad Pro for non-cellular models. Color options aside, the decision between a new iPad Air and new iPad Pro clearly comes down to the ProMotion display, Face ID, and the higher storage options available only on the Pro. But, in a genuine oddity of product update scheduling, the iPad Air (with the same A14 SoC as the new iPhones 12) is in most cases a slightly faster-performing computer than the iPad Pro (with the A12Z).

Geekbench 5 scores, averaged over two runs, with all devices running iPadOS 14.1:

Chip Single Multi Compute
iPhones 12 A14 1,590 4,010 9,190
iPad Air (2020) A14 1,580 4,240 12,530
iPad Pro (2020) A12Z 1,120 4,680 12,000
iPad Pro (2018) A12X 1,120 4,370 10,930

Browserbench Speedometer 2.0 scores, which aim to measure real-world web application performance:

Chip Speedometer 2
iPhones 12 A14 200
iPad Air (2020) A14 213
iPad Pro (2020) A12Z 146
iPad Pro (2018) A12X 146

The iPad Pro’s A12Z still wins on multi-core CPU tests, which isn’t surprising — the A14 is a 6-core chip; the A12X has 7 cores and the A12Z has 8. But single-core performance — which in my opinion has more real-world utility, especially for consumer usage — is noticeably faster on the A14, and even the GPU (as tested by Geekbench’s “Compute” benchmark) is faster on the A14. Presumably, new iPad Pro models based on the A14 (“A14X” would be a smart guess for the name) will appear next year.

As for why the new iPad Air scores slightly higher than the iPhones 12, both in Geekbench tests and Speedometer, I don’t know. Comparing phones to tablets is a little apples-to-oranges-y, I suppose, in terms of power management. The differences aren’t enough to worry about.

The Return of Touch ID

While using it, the only time I notice that this is the new iPad Air and not my trusty iPad Pro is when I need to use Touch ID instead of Face ID. That’s a hard habit to break. When you go from using a Touch ID device to a Face ID one — whether iPhone or iPad — it’s a pretty easy transition, because Face ID generally kicks in without you doing anything. The whole point of Face ID is that the device recognizes you just by your looking at the device, and when you’re unlocking it, you’re generally looking at it. Whereas with Touch ID, you need to take action. You need to put a finger on the sensor.

When I’m hand-holding this iPad Air, I’m kind of used to the Touch ID sensor already, but I still miss Face ID. You can just tap-to-wake the screen, but when you do, you need to authenticate by resting your finger on the Touch ID sensor to unlock the iPad without entering your passcode. You just get used to waking the iPad by putting your finger on the power button, or even just picking it up with a grip that puts your right index finger on the button.

But when the iPad Air is connected to the Magic Keyboard (as it has been throughout my writing of this piece) — I just can’t get used to not having Face ID. With an iPad Pro in the Magic Keyboard, you just press any key on the keyboard (I’m a space bar man, personally) or wiggle a digit on the trackpad and boom, Face ID recognizes you and the iPad is unlocked. With the iPad Air, you’ve got to reach your left hand up and rest your finger on the power button for a moment. Every. Damn. Time. While writing this very section, specifically about the fact that I can’t stop expecting Face ID to unlock the iPad Air while it’s connected to the Magic Keyboard, I sat here stabbing at the space bar on the keyboard wondering why it’s not unlocking.

The good news is that anyone who already has a 2018 or 2020 iPad Pro, and thus is already habitually acclimated to the experience of Face ID, is not in the market for a new iPad Air. But for those who are eying a new 11-inch-ish iPad and are planning to get a Magic Keyboard (or use their new iPad with any other Bluetooth keyboard/trackpad combination, now that iPadOS has excellent support for such things), the relative obtrusiveness of using Touch ID versus Face ID with a keyboard is the single biggest difference between the iPad Air and iPad Pro.

If you plan to never or seldom use your iPad with a hardware keyboard and trackpad, I don’t think you’re missing that much with Touch ID instead of Face ID. If you do plan to use a keyboard and trackpad, however, you’re missing a lot. Face ID is what puts much of the magic in the Magic Keyboard experience.

Will this Touch ID sensor in the power button ever make its way to iPhones? I think not. I know many people were vaguely hoping it would make a surprise appearance in the iPhones 12 after last month’s announcement of the new iPad Air, but adding Touch ID to the iPhone power button doesn’t really make a lot of sense.

Yes, across the world, many of us are wearing face masks whenever we venture outside the home, and Face ID doesn’t work with masked faces. (Some people report that it does work, sometimes, but it never works for me, and definitely is not officially supported.) But how would a Touch ID sensor on the power button work with an iPhone in a case? Most people use cases, and most cases cover the power button. That’s such a dealbreaker that I think the whole debate might end there. But even putting the issue of button-covering cases aside, how would Touch ID work alongside Face ID? Would they be alternatives — use either one in any situation requiring authentication? That’s how I would guess it would work. But would iOS add a new option to require both forms of biometric authentication for additional security? And if you’re allowed to use either of them in most situations, which one should you use? Practically speaking it would be nice to have Touch ID while wearing a face mask — trust me, I know — but conceptually it seems a bit mushy to have both Touch ID and Face ID on the same device. I think we’re more likely to see a better Face ID system that can identify us while we wear masks covering our mouths and noses than iPhones that have Touch ID sensors on the power button. If we, as humans, can recognize people we know while they’re wearing face masks, computers can do it too.

Touch ID that somehow works through the display, not the power button — that seems like an option worth pursuing, conceptual mushiness of dual biometric systems be damned.

The Bottom Line

The $600 64 GB iPad Air seems like a terrific device for anyone looking for a great modern iPad for handheld use. If you don’t need additional storage and don’t plan to use it with a Bluetooth keyboard or Magic Keyboard (where Face ID really makes a big difference convenience-wise), $600 is a lot less than the $800 starting price for a 128 GB 11-inch iPad Pro, and the new iPad Air is a lot nicer than the no-adjective regular iPads.

But I’m not sure who the $750 256 GB iPad Air is for. Are there people who would be better off with this iPad Air rather than the $800 128 GB iPad Pro? People who need 256 GB of storage instead of 128 GB, but don’t want Face ID or ProMotion or the lidar-equipped camera system? I don’t know who they are, if they’re out there. 


‘Biden Will Make America Lead Again’ 

William McRaven, in an op-ed for that left-wing rag The Wall Street Journal:

This week I went to the polls in Texas. Truth be told, I am a pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, small-government, strong-defense and a national-anthem-standing conservative. But, I also believe that black lives matter, that the Dreamers deserve a path to citizenship, that diversity and inclusion are essential to our national success, that education is the great equalizer, that climate change is real and that the First Amendment is the cornerstone of our democracy. Most important, I believe that America must lead in the world with courage, conviction and a sense of honor and humility.

If we remain indifferent to our role in the world, if we retreat from our obligation to our citizens and our allies and if we fail to choose the right leader, then we will pay the highest price for our neglect and shortsightedness.

I voted for Joe Biden.

McRaven was a Navy admiral and commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command from 2011-14. This is a good op-ed to pass to fence-sitting friends and family.

Trump’s Closing Pitch: Biden Will ‘Listen to the Scientists’ if Elected 

Aris Folley, reporting for The Hill:

Trump told attendees in Carson City that supporters of his opponent would surrender their “future to the virus,” saying: “He’s gonna want to lockdown.”

“He’ll listen to the scientists,” Trump added in a mocking tone before saying, “If I listened totally to the scientists, we would right now have a country that would be in a massive depression instead — we’re like a rocket ship. Take a look at the numbers.”

One of the things about Trump is that the outrageous stuff he says is a mix of mostly outright nonsense and bullshit but then also a wee bit of straight truth. “Biden will listen to the scientists” is one of the latter.

Take it from Donald Trump: Joe Biden will listen to scientists and experts.

Quibi Was Scabi 

There’s a lot that was obviously wrong and dumb about Quibi. One thing I didn’t know until today is that a lot of its dumb-seeming gimmicks were just attempts to circumvent Writers Guild and Screen Actors Guild rules so they could cheat writers and actors out of money. Outright shitbaggery from a company that raised $1.8 billion.

Quibi Goes Under 

This is easily the most-predictable yet still newsworthy entertainment industry news in recent memory.

Kevin Clark has the best take:

I’m not gonna tell the Quibi people how to do their jobs but if you wanted to raise $1.8 billion to invest in something destined to fail you should’ve just bought the Jets.

Airbnb Hires Jony Ive for Design Consulting 

Zoë Bernard and Cory Weinberg, reporting for The Information:

Airbnb has hired famed former Apple designer Jony Ive as a creative consultant ahead of its initial public offering, CEO Brian Chesky said Wednesday. The hire is the most significant in a series of moves that has shaken up Airbnb’s creative team, a key department in a company known for its emphasis on branding.

The company told employees Wednesday that longtime chief design officer Alex Schleifer would leave his executive position, moving to a part-time role. Chesky described Ive’s appointment as “a multi-year relationship to design the next generation of Airbnb products and services.” The company will still seek a permanent replacement for Schleifer.

I just wondered yesterday what Ive was up to. Airbnb (of all places!) has a really strong contingent of talented ex-Apple folks. There’s a sort of “putting the band back together” thing going on there.


The iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro

I try to keep two distinct readers in mind with these annual reviews of new iPhones. First, you, today — you probably want insight to help you decide, to some degree, whether you should upgrade from whatever iPhone you currently own (and you probably do own an iPhone already) to one of this year’s new ones, and if so, which one? Second, me, in the future — I want to look back and use what I write now as a resource to remember what was new with the 2020 iPhones.

What’s worth noticing and knowing about these iPhones vis-à-vis the market today? What remains the same? What’s different? What stands out? What will be worth remembering about them in the future? When I get lost in a sea of disparate notes and observations, these are the questions I come back to for clarity.

But there’s just no way to write a definitive review of the entire iPhone 12 lineup today. There are four iPhones in that lineup, and the two that I’ve been using for the last week are the least novel of the bunch: the no-adjective iPhone 12 (in blue) and the iPhone 12 Pro (in pacific blue).

The iPhone 12 Mini (the smallest iPhone Apple has made since the 5 / 5C / 5S / SE) and the 12 Pro Max (the biggest iPhone Apple has ever made, with the most advanced camera system) are launching three weeks after the identically mid-sized 12 and 12 Pro, and reviews, if Apple follows form, will likely drop three weeks from today.1

If you really want to understand the gestalt of the whole iPhone 12 lineup, you have to wait. We all do.

But that’s not a complaint. I’ve struggled enough trying to review these two phones in a week. (They arrived last Wednesday. So, at publication, I’ve been using them for about six days.) I don’t know how much of the three-week split between the launches of the 12/12 Pro and the 12 Mini/12 Pro Max was dictated by the travails of production and manufacturing,2 and how much is purposeful strategy,3 but I’m glad to have the chance to just write about these two iPhones first, even if the 12 Mini and 12 Pro Max are ultimately more interesting.

Industrial Design

“The creative act of determining and defining a product’s form and features” — that’s Wikipedia’s definition of industrial design, and that’s pretty good — and perfect for what I want to talk about here.

In the early small-screen era of iPhone, the logical progression of iPhone form factors was very obvious. The original iPhone, 3G, and 3GS were all basically the same size. The original was aluminum and the 3G/3GS were plastic, which was a big change — a change in the name of practicality but which in hindsight leaves the original as a much more compelling artifact, particularly after being well-used. But it’s also obvious that switching to plastic made the iPhone 3G/3GS cheaper to make and almost certainly more antenna-friendly.

The iPhone 4 and 4S introduced retina displays — to my mind, the single biggest change in personal computer displays ever. Apple didn’t incrementally increase the pixel density — they doubled it, which in terms of area meant quadrupling. Pixels instantly went from dots you could see with the naked eye to ones that you couldn’t, in one fell swoop. And the iPhone’s structural design changed completely, to a flat stainless steel antenna band sandwiched between two panes of glass. (What comes around goes around.) The iPhone 5 changed the aspect ratio, making the displays taller, but the display width stayed the same. Basically, in a certain essential sense — that sense being how an iPhone fit and felt in one’s hand — iPhones changed a lot in terms of style between 2007’s original and 2011’s 4S, but they stayed the same size. And even with the 5 and 5S, they grew only in height, not width. That was seven model years of same-width iPhones. It was very clear Apple’s designers knew what size they felt early iPhones should be.

In the era of the iPhones 6 through 8, Apple settled on and stuck with two larger sizes: 4.7-inch regular displays and 5.5-inch “Plus” displays. Camera bumps and color options aside, the essential industrial design of these phones remained utterly identical from the 2014 iPhone 6 through today’s second-generation SE. (And at the Plus size, perhaps from the 6 Plus through next year’s potential SE Plus?)

There’s a “measure twice, cut once” aspect to Apple’s consistency with those home-button-era iPhones. And, importantly, their display sizes could be used as shorthand descriptions of their relative device sizes. All of the 3.5-inch iPhones (original through 4S) felt the same size in hand. The 4-inch models (5/5C/5S/SE) felt only taller, not bigger per se. (And they got thinner, which helped keep them from feeling bigger, and replaced the glass backs with all-aluminum frames, which made them relatively lighter by volume.) All of the 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch home-button iPhones are almost exactly the same size, shape, and weight as each other, respectively.

That’s not the case with the Face-ID-era iPhones.

In the first three years of the Face ID era, we saw three display sizes: 5.8-inch OLED (X, XS, 11 Pro), 6.5-inch OLED (XS Max, 11 Pro Max), and 6.1-inch LCD (XR, 11). These three display sizes corresponded to three device sizes. In hand, in pocket, and side-by-side on a table, these devices feel and look like what the diagonal measure of their displays suggest: regular (5.8″), large (6.5″), and split-the-difference (6.1″). One is tempted to say small, medium, and large, but that’s not apt at all. The 5.8-inch iPhones are not small. They feel regular sized. The new default. That’s why the one and only iPhone X — the phone that introduced the second conceptual design of the iPhone experience (no home button, edge-to-edge round-cornered displays, the slide-from-bottom gesture for getting to the home screen and multitasking) — was that size.

The 6.5-inch Max devices truly were large, but the 6.1-inch XR and 11 were something else. “Split-the-difference” sounds inelegant but I really do feel that’s what Apple was doing with them. It was a compromise to bring the iPhone X conceptual design to a more consumer-friendly price point, and one size that worked for everyone. The XR and 11 feel a little big in hand for those who, if price were no matter, would prefer the 5.8-inch XS or 11 Pro. And they look a little small for those who, if price were no matter, would prefer the 6.5-inch XS Max or 11 Pro Max. But it’s a good compromise size for everyone whose sensibility or budget steered them toward iPhones that started around $750 or so rather than $1000 or so.

So when you see that the new iPhone 12 and 12 Pro4 have 6.1-inch displays, 12 years of iPhone experience are going to make you think these are iPhone XR/11-sized devices. They’re not. In hand, in pocket, and to the eye, they feel and look like iPhone X/XS/11 Pro-sized devices. Display size is no longer a proximate metric for relative iPhone device size.

Consider a small table of specs quoted (and in the case of volume, computed) from Apple’s iPhone Compare page:

12 12 Pro 11 Pro 11
Height 146.7 mm 146.7 mm 144.0 mm 150.9 mm
Width 71.5 mm 71.5 mm 71.4 mm 75.7 mm
Depth 7.4 mm 7.4 mm 8.1 mm 8.3 mm
Volume 77.6 cc 77.6 cc 83.3 cc 94.8 cc
Weight 164 g 189 g 188 g 194 g

Note first that the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro are precisely the same dimensions. This should be obvious from the fact that they share the same Apple-branded protective cases, but it’s worth emphasizing here because the 11 and 11 Pro are very different sizes (as were the XR and XS in 2018). And despite the fact that the 12 and 12 Pro have 6.1-inch displays — the same display size as the iPhone 11 — as devices they are much closer in size to the 11 Pro.

The iPhone 12/12 Pro are 2.7 mm taller than the 11 Pro, yes, but remain 4.2 mm shorter than the 11. In width they’re just a minuscule 0.1 mm wider than the 11 Pro. But because they’re thinner,5 the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro are smaller by volume than the 11 Pro.

The 12 and 12 Pro give you an iPhone XR/11-sized 6.1-inch diagonal display in an iPhone X/XS/11 Pro-sized device. How is this possible? Apple has reduced the size of the bezel surrounding the display, and the flat sides of the 12 models are narrower than the rounded sides of the X and 11 Phones.

In hand, the width of a phone is much more noticeable than its height. That’s just self-evident based on how one grips a phone. With an iPhone 11 Pro in one hand and a 12 Pro in the other, they feel like different takes on the same size/weight device.

As someone whose daily carry for the last three years has been a X/XS/11 Pro, the iPhone 12 Pro does not feel like a bigger device at all. Just different. I think nicer, because I think flat sides feel nicer than round ones, but one week into carrying iPhones 12 around and I don’t think the round-to-flat change makes that big of a difference to me in terms of preference. I expected to feel more strongly about this (in favor of the flat sides), but so far I don’t. I like the flat sides, but as I go back and forth between the 12 and 12 Pro and my trusty 11 Pro, I don’t feel grossed out by the 11 Pro’s round sides the way I expected to.

So here’s my theory on Apple’s design thinking. I don’t think they start with a display size and then design a phone around that. I think they start with a device size and then fit a display into that design. The foundation of the Face-ID-era iPhones is the feel of the iPhone X in hand. That basic size, that feel in hand and in pocket — that is the size of a regular modern iPhone. It’s the Goldilocks size that to most people’s taste isn’t big, and isn’t small.

The iPhone XR and 11 were compromise designs. Apple’s best attempt to bring everything they could about the expensive OLED iPhone X to a significantly less expensive LCD model. A one-size-fits-most design which, in hindsight, I think will look like a two-year blip on the historical timeline of basic iPhone form factors.

The iPhone 12 Is Fantastic

In the size/weight comparison table above, I highlighted one figure: the weight of the iPhone 12. The 12 and 12 Pro are the exact same size but the 12 is 25 grams lighter — about 13 percent. That is very noticeable. Apple’s silicone and clear cases for the 12 models both weigh about 28 grams, so the regular 12 is about the same weight with a case as the 12 Pro without.

Clearly some of the difference here is because the 12 Pro has camera system components the regular 12 does not: the telephoto third lens and the lidar sensor. But some of the difference is due to the 12 Pro’s stainless steel band (“surgical grade”, Apple will have you know) weighing more than the 12’s aluminum6 one. There’s no functional advantage to steel over aluminum here. It’s purely a stylistic choice. I get that with Apple Watch. I don’t really get it with iPhones. Watches are jewelry, but phones are tools. Especially phones-as-cameras, and feature-wise, nearly all of the differences between the 12 and 12 Pro are related to the camera and photography. If you’re buying the iPhone 12 Pro instead of the 12 on functional grounds, those functions are photographic — and I’ve never seen a camera made of stainless steel or other high-gloss metal.

The iPhone 12 Pro has glossy steel sides and a matte glass back that, to my fingers, feels exactly like the matte glass back of the 11 Pro last year. The iPhone X and XS had stainless steel bands too, but they had glossy glass backs. As a no-case aficionado, I can say definitively after a year with the 11 Pro that I prefer the feel of glossy glass backs. Glossy sounds like it would be more slippery than matte, but when it comes to glass, glossiness adds grip — it gives your fingers a bit of tack, like clean sneakers on a polished basketball court.

Subjectively I think the glossy glass iPhone backs look better too. Both of these blue iPhones look great, and I think both colors will prove very popular, but there’s no question to my eyes that the blue iPhone 12 pops in a way the staid pacific blue iPhone 12 Pro does not. The blue iPhone 12 strikes a remarkable balance between looking both fun yet unfrivolous simultaneously. If you were to go into the store thinking you’d like to buy a pacific blue iPhone 12 Pro, but they were sold out of that color, you might gladly settle for graphite. If you have your heart set on this vibrant blue iPhone 12, nothing else will do — you’ll wait until it’s back in stock or trek to another store.

I also find the matte finish of the aluminum band nicer to the touch. It looks great in blue, too, but it’s the feel I like best. While I’m on it, the shiny steel band of the 12 Pro is a fingerprint magnet — they wipe away easily, but the aluminum band of the 12 never shows any signs of having been touched. If I had my druthers, I would prefer the matte aluminum band and glossy back of the regular iPhone 12 and the three-lens-plus-lidar camera system of the 12 Pro. Of this, I am dead certain about preferring the glossy glass back over matte. I’m less certain about preferring the look and feel of the matte aluminum band and buttons. Saving a bit of weight, though, is a sure-fire advantage for aluminum over steel. So if I had the opportunity right now, as I type this sentence, to configure my ideal iPhone 12, that’s what I’d specify: the glossy back and aluminum sides of the regular 12 and the camera system from the 12 Pro.

In addition to introducing a rethinking of the fundamental iPhone conceptual design, the iPhone X also upped the ante for niceness. It was just nicer than the iPhones 8. That discrepancy in niceness was, arguably, more prominent comparing the XR to the XS, and 11 to the 11 Pro. The iPhones 8 were just an entirely different design. The XR and non-Pro 11 were the same design as the iPhone X, but with LCD displays instead of OLED and slightly thicker (but definitely thicker enough to notice) surrounding bezels, they just weren’t as nice. The XR and 11 were even a clumsier size — less elegant in hand than the XS/11 Pro, but yet not big enough to qualify as truly large display phones.

Camera system aside, the iPhone 12 is just as nice as the iPhone 12 Pro, and it costs $120 less for the same amount of storage.7

Apple’s Silicone and Clear Cases

For all my consideration on the differences in look and feel between the aluminum and steel bands and glossy and matte glass backs, let’s face it — 90-95 percent of people keep their iPhones in cases all the time. Apple sent along their silicone (blue, natch) and clear cases with their reviewer kit.

The thing I noticed most about the new silicone case is that the lip extends all the way around. With the iPhone X through 11, Apple’s cases had a cutout along the bottom, which I found nice to use, because there’s no lip that gets in the way of your thumb as you swipe up from the bottom — and in the modern post-iPhone X paradigm, you swipe up from the bottom all the time. Apple’s new clear case still has a cutout along the bottom. I don’t know why they changed this for the silicone case but not the clear one. A difference in structural rigidity between the materials? Personally, I don’t care for either case — I don’t like the lip that goes all the way around the bottom of the silicon case, and I don’t like the feel of the buttons on the clear case (they feel squishy, not clicky). But I’m not a case person.

MagSafe

Apple has a rich history of reusing names. “iBook”, for example, was an iconic consumer laptop — and then it was an e-book platform. Apple removed our beloved MagSafe charging ports from MacBooks a few years ago, but now they’ve brought back the brand for iPhone, and it’s delightful.

Apple’s own cases have MagSafe built in. Primarily this is about charging — the magnets on the case allow the magnets on the MagSafe charging puck to snap into place just like when the iPhone isn’t in a case, and they pass through the same 15-watt charging speed. (The iPhones 12 still max out at 7.5 watts when using regular Qi chargers.) But the magnets on the case also help hold the cases in place on the phones. The magnets aren’t the only thing holding the cases on — the lips still do curl over the edges a bit — but the magnets definitely connect. When you put an iPhone 12 into a MagSafe case, or connect it to a MagSafe charger, the phone emits a delightful little bloop, and briefly displays a MagSafe indicator on screen. When connected to a charger, this circle acts as a gauge for the phone’s current charge. The size and location of this indicator on the display corresponds exactly to the size and location of the MagSafe connector attached to the back of the phone — nice. This sort of spatial awareness of the on-screen software and device hardware brings to mind the audio-volume meters that are aligned perfectly with the volume-up/down hardware buttons.

The reviewer kit from Apple included only the $39 MagSafe charger that’s available to purchase now. Apple has also announced an upcoming folding Duo Charger, with MagSafe on one side and an Apple Watch charger on the other, and we’ll probably soon see a slew of third-party docks.

I dig MagSafe charging. But it definitely is not a dock or a charging mat, like tabletop Qi chargers are. It sticks to the iPhone, so if you just pick up the iPhone while it’s charging, the MagSafe puck stays attached. It’s best thought of as a magnetic replacement for a Lightning cable, not a magnet charging pad. An iPhone attaches to the MagSafe puck, it doesn’t just rest on it. This is a feature — you can use your iPhone while it’s charging with MagSafe, just like you can with a Lightning cable. In fact, it’s even more convenient, because you can rotate the puck on the back to make the cable go in whichever direction is most comfortable.

At one point over the weekend, the 12 Pro stopped charging over MagSafe. No audio bloop, no on-screen connection indicator, no charge. Restarting the iPhone fixed it. This, I am reliably informed, is a known bug that has already been addressed in the iOS 14.2 beta seeded today. (Both of the reviewed iPhones came with iOS 14.1 installed.)

That glitch aside, I like MagSafe enough that I plan on buying MagSafe chargers for my bedside and travel bag. I greatly look forward to never again waking up with my phone in the red because I left it ever so slightly misaligned on my bedside Qi charger overnight.

You can put other Qi-compatible iPhones on a MagSafe puck and they will charge, treating the MagSafe puck as a 7.5-watt Qi charger. There’s no special bloop or on-screen animation, but it works fine. I put my Qi-compatible Pixel 4 on and it seemed to recognize it as a charger, but it didn’t actually charge. I’ve had trouble with the Pixel 4 and other Qi chargers too, so this might be weirdness on the part of the Pixel, not the MagSafe charger. Your mileage may vary using MagSafe to charge non-iPhone devices.

A lot of people are wondering about car mounts: are the magnets alone strong enough to hold an iPhone? Based on the MagSafe charging puck, I’d say no, at least not if you occasionally hit Philly-quality potholes. But maybe a car mount can and will use stronger magnets. My guess is that car mounts will combine MagSafe with some sort of clip or cup.

The glaringly obvious thing here is that in theory, MagSafe ought to be compatible with Apple Watch, but it’s not. They’re both magnetic inductive charging connectors, but MagSafe can’t charge a Watch and the Watch’s charger can’t charge an iPhone. AirPower, we shan’t forget thee.

5G

Apple sent along a Verizon 5G SIM card for testing. (Two phones, but one SIM card — which is fine by me. But I’m sure some of you are curious about that.)

There are like a dozen or more different specific bands of 5G networking. You don’t need to worry about that. That’s like worrying about which channel your Wi-Fi connection is using. The basic story with 5G is that there are two primary flavors:

  • Sub-6GHz is more or less like LTE, but supposedly somewhat faster and better in terms of dealing with congestion. Verizon calls this “5G Nationwide”. I think of it as “regular 5G”.
  • mmWave is incredibly fast, but also very short-range. It’s like a hotspot, and appropriate only for dense city areas and congested spots like stadiums and airports. Verizon calls this “5G Ultra Wideband”. I think of it as “holy-shit-this-is-fast 5G”.

Juli Clover wrote a nice short 5G explainer last month for MacRumors covering the differences. If your carrier plan includes 5G service, you don’t need to do anything to use 5G.

Here’s Verizon’s 5G coverage map, and here is a screenshot showing their current map for Center City Philadelphia:

Verizon's coverage map for Center City Philadelphia.

Here’s a zoomed out screenshot showing the greater Philly metro area:

Verizon's coverage map for Center City Philadelphia.

Basically, Verizon claims to offer “5G Nationwide” — a.k.a. Sub-6GHz 5G — across the whole metro region except for the most densely populated area right in the heart of Philly. Which is where I live. I walked into areas that are red on Verizon’s map, but I never saw any regular 5G service. Only LTE. I pretty much live my life in Verizon’s pink zone.

But those dark maroon areas for “5G Ultra Wideband” — a.k.a. 5G mmWave — are for the most part very accurate on Verizon’s map. I went straight from LTE to 5G Ultra Wideband (the indicator in the iOS status bar changes to “5G” with a little “UW” next to it) without seeing a lick of normal 5G all week.

And — I’ll repeat — holy shit is Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband fast. Using Ookla’s Speedtest app for testing, my LTE service here in Philly is generally in the range of 50-120 Mbps down, 10-20 Mbps up. Not bad. With 5G Ultra Wideband, I typically saw 1,200-1,800 Mbps down, 25-70 Mbps up. At a few spots I consistently saw 2,300-2,700 Mbps down. Wowza. Apple’s and Verizon’s advertised maximum under “ideal conditions” is 4,000 Mbps. That’s gigabit speeds in real life over a cellular network.

But these mmWave coverage zones really are like Wi-Fi hotspots in terms of range. At some spots, the coverage is literally just half a city block. And it supposedly doesn’t penetrate walls or even windows well. It’s an outdoor technology, I guess? Which seems really limiting? It’s technically amazing, and I can vouch that it works and really does deliver downstream speed that’s 10 times or more faster than Verizon’s LTE. But if it doesn’t work indoors, I’m not sure when it’s ever going to be practically useful for me, other than when I’m at congested spots like airports, train stations, arenas, and stadiums — places I haven’t seen since early March and won’t see again until who knows when.

Data caps are another practical concern. Anything you do that can make use of these insane speeds can chew through 15-30 GB of data pretty quickly. Download Xcode once and boom, there goes 11 GB. But 5G will help you blow through your data cap really fast.

I can’t speak to Verizon’s regular 5G service, because I never encountered it.

As for testing 5G’s potentially deleterious effect on battery life: that’s beyond the scope of this review, alas. But I will point out that iOS 14.1 has three separate options in Settings → Cellular → Cellular Data Options → Voice & Data:

  • 5G On
  • 5G Auto
  • LTE

Apple’s description: “5G On uses 5G whenever it is available, even when it may reduce battery life. 5G Auto uses 5G only when it will not significantly reduce battery life.” 5G Auto is the default, and that’s where I left it all week. Overall daily battery life seemed about what I’d expect while using these devices pretty extensively.

There is also a section in Cellular Data Options for Data Mode:

  • Allow More Data on 5G
  • Standard
  • Low Data Mode

On iPhones without 5G, this is just a toggle switch for Low Data Mode. Allow More Data on 5G, according to the descriptive text, “provides higher-quality video and FaceTime when connected to 5G cellular networks”. I think it more or less treats a 5G connection the same way it does a Wi-Fi connection. I don’t think this is a good idea. 5G may well be faster than LTE, but allowing more data over cellular should depend on your plan’s data cap, not the speed of the connection.

One last 5G note: iOS hotspot tethering will share a 5G Ultra Wideband connection. At a location where the iPhone 12 was seeing speeds of 1,200-1,700 Mbps down, a connected device using the personal hotspot over Wi-Fi was seeing speeds of 500-600 Mbps. Impressive! According to Apple, modern Apple devices will see faster hotspot speeds tethering over the air with Wi-Fi than using a USB Lightning cable.

Benchmarks

A serious analysis of the A14 is far beyond the scope of this piece, but I did poke around with Geekbench 5 and the browser-based Speedometer 2.0 just to see what the basic gist was. In my brief testing, the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro scored equivalently, so I’m not listing them separately. Geekbench does say there’s more RAM in the 12 Pro (6 GB vs. 4 GB), but that doesn’t seem to make any difference in these benchmarks, nor would I expect it to. In all of these benchmarks, higher numbers are faster, and are the average of three runs:

iPhone 12 iPhone 11 % Faster
GB5 Single-core 1590 1330 20
GB5 Multi-core 4010 3340 20
GB5 Compute 9190 7180 28
Speedometer 2.0 200 154 30

Apple’s silicon team continues not merely to impress, but to amaze. The A14 runs rings around both Qualcomm’s best offerings for Android phones and the Intel chips currently in Macs. Emphasis there on currently.

Miscellaneous

  • Did I take a bunch of photos and videos this week? Yes, I did. Everything seemed as good or better than last year. The one thing that jumped out at me is that in low light, you can easily see the improvement year over year with the 1× main lens going from ƒ/1.8 to ƒ/1.6 on both phones. Relegating the entirety of photography to a bullet point under Miscellaneous seems silly, but really, it demands a feature-length review of its own.

  • Apple sent one of their new MagSafe leather wallets too. I actually use a small cards-only wallet, but I’m a wallet in one pocket, phone in the other person, so I have no interest in attaching my wallet to the back of my phone. But if you do, and don’t carry many cards, you might like it. The magnetic strength seems about right. The big question I’ve seen folks asking online is how many cards it holds. For me, no matter which combination of cards I try, the answer is very consistent: it holds three cards. I don’t know why Apple doesn’t just say that in the product description. If you put just one or two cards in, they’ll stay put, wedged into the bottom, but if you try adding a fourth card it’ll either be too tight or simply will not fit.

  • You know the protective sticker that covers the display on a new iPhone? The thing that’s so satisfyingly fun to peel off that Apple made an entire commercial about it for the new iPhone SE earlier this year? On the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro, this sticker is now opaque white paper, not clear film. It now has cute little icons indicating what the buttons do. It maybe doesn’t look as cool but it’s still quite satisfying to peel off, and, Apple tells me, this reduces the amount of plastic waste. I’m not sure there’s any plastic in the entire package other than the USB-C-to-Lightning cable and the de rigueur Apple logo sticker. Otherwise it’s all paper and cardboard. 


  1. Apple’s usual schedule is for review embargoes to drop in the window between pre-orders and shipping. I can’t think of a product that was an exception to this. ↩︎

  2. Which, this year, have clearly been made more difficult by the COVID-19 pandemic, which temporarily shut down Apple’s supply chain in China earlier this year, and has severely restricted travel all year long. It’s impossible to overstate just how much of Apple’s usual process involves U.S. employees of the company flying back and forth to China to inspect and test components and oversee and approve assembly. It’s really quite remarkable that these new iPhones are debuting as close to the “normal” schedule as they are. ↩︎︎

  3. In 2017, the iPhones 8 and 8 Plus went on sale in mid-September, the week after they were introduced. But the iPhone X didn’t ship until early November, with the first reviews dropping October 31. (My own iPhone X review didn’t appear until December 26.) In 2018 the schedule flip-flopped, with the not-yet-called-“Pro” iPhones XS and XS Max appearing “on time” in mid-September and the iPhone XR appearing five weeks later. Last year, the whole iPhone 11 family — 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max — debuted together in mid-September↩︎︎

  4. That’s right — 1,200 or so words in, and I’m just now getting to the new phones. ↩︎︎

  5. Apple’s depth measurements don’t account for the camera bumps, but the bumps on the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro don’t seem to protrude any more than on last year’s iPhones. ↩︎︎

  6. I do miss hearing “aluminium” from Jony Ive’s voiceovers. And it occurs to me to wonder what he’s up to. ↩︎︎

  7. Here’s a little detail where the iPhone 12 gets screwed on niceness. There are two tiny pentalobe screws next to the Lightning port on both phones. On the iPhone 12 Pro, they are color-matched to the steel band. On the iPhone 12, they’re not. Come on, Apple. ↩︎︎


Apple Launches ‘Apple Music TV’ — Free Streaming Music Videos 

I think Sting said it (well, sang it) best.

The Verge: Beats Flex Review 

Chris Welch, The Verge:

But the other reason why the Flex buds are an important product is, well, Android. Instead of using Apple’s proprietary Lightning connector for charging, as many Beats headphones have since the acquisition, the Flex have a USB-C port. Beats’ Android app has already been updated to support them. These moves show that as Apple continues putting a greater emphasis on audio products — with the new HomePod mini and long-rumored premium headphones expected to launch soon — Beats is realizing it needs to stand independently from Apple’s ecosystem if the brand wants to continue its enormous success.

$50 for decent-sounding wireless earbuds with W1 chips for Apple device integration, and USB-C charging and a nice-looking Android app for better outside-the-Apple-universe appeal. A product like this is exactly why Apple is keeping the Beats brand around.

I Will Vote 

The “I Will Vote” website is a great resource (along with Vote.org, which I’ve had linked in my election countdown up in the corner). Today is the voter registration deadline in a bunch of states, including my home state of Pennsylvania. It’s a good reminder to register now if you haven’t already, and to check your registration if you’re already in.

If you’ve never voted, this is the year to start. If you know friends and family who’ve never voted, let them know how easy it is to start.

Kandji 

My thanks to Kandji for sponsoring last week at DF. Kandji is an Apple device management (MDM) solution built exclusively for IT teams at businesses that run on Apple platforms.

Kandji provides granular control over your Apple fleet, keeping your Mac, iPhone, iPad, and even Apple TV devices secure and efficient. They announced iOS 14 support on release day, and they are ready to support new MDM features for MacOS 11 Big Sur as well. Features include: over 150 pre-built controls, automated deployment (DEP), support for App Store and custom apps, managed MacOS upgrades, and a lot more.

See a product tour or request access for a demo and get access to a 14-day trial.


Thoughts and Observations on Apple’s ‘Hi, Speed’ iPhone 12 Event

Last month’s “Time Flies” event for the Apple Watch Series 6 and new iPad Air was about an hour long; this week’s “Hi, Speed” event ran just a bit longer at 70 minutes. Perhaps, if 2020 had gone as planned, all of these products would have been announced in one big two-hour event in early September. There’s a lot I miss about in-person events,1 but in terms of dosing the news, I like the digestibility of these shorter, more focused events. There’s more than enough to process considering just the new iPhone 12 models and the dessert course (served before the entrees) of HomePod Mini.

The 2020 iPhone Lineup

So there are four new iPhones this year. Is that confusing? I don’t think so, and if anything is confusing or complicated about this year’s lineup, it’s at the high end, with the camera system differences between the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max. The addition of a fourth iPhone, the 12 Mini, doesn’t complicate the lineup at all, because its name completely describes everything there is to know about it.

Really, the product names tell you how to understand the lineup. The iPhone 12 is the new iPhone — almost certainly the best choice for most people in the market for a new-model-year iPhone. Unless they really want an iPhone that is smaller, in which case they should, with no hesitation, get the iPhone 12 Mini. In terms of features and specs, it’s exactly like the iPhone 12, just smaller. It’s also $100 cheaper — but the reason to buy a 12 Mini is the size, not the price. If a lower price is more meaningful to you than device size, you should probably either get an iPhone 11 or XR and save some money, or, for a smaller device, get an iPhone SE and save a lot of money.

Here’s a matrix with the new lineup, organized the way I think makes the most sense. In the bottom row, I compare all storage tiers to 128 GB as a baseline. Storage is priced very consistently this year: across all iPhone models, every 64 GB of additional storage costs $50.

64 GB 128 GB 256 GB 512 GB
iPhone 12 Pro Max $1,100 $1,200 $1,400
iPhone 12 Pro 1,000 1,100 1,300
iPhone 12 830 880 980
iPhone 12 Mini 730 780 880
 
iPhone 11 600 650 750
iPhone XR 500 550
iPhone SE 400 450 550
Δ from 128 GB -50 +100 +300

I think it’s useful to include last year’s prices for the then-new iPhone 11 lineup for comparison:

64 GB 128 GB 256 GB 512 GB
(2019) 11 Pro Max $1,100 $1,250 $1,450
(2019) 11 Pro 1,000 1,150 1,350
(2019) iPhone 11 700 750 850

Zeroth, all prices I’ve listed are for unlocked phones. Apple’s promotion of the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini as starting (respectively) at $799/699 rather than $829/729 just because of some sort of marketing deals they cut with AT&T and Verizon for existing AT&T and Verizon customers is $30 worth of bullshit. (And now Apple has let T-Mobile join the club.)

First, comparing like-to-like models year-over-year, the regular iPhone 12 is $130 more expensive than the iPhone 11 was. The fact that the 12 Mini is just $30 more than the equivalent 11 was a year ago helps assuage that, but, again, I think the 12 Mini is best thought of as a variant for people who really prefer smaller phones, not as the base model.

Second, the Pro models are actually less expensive than they were last year. The base prices are the same, but base storage goes from 64 to 128 GB, which, to be honest, feels overdue. We can argue about how much the “Pro” in these iPhone product names means professional and how much it actually means deluxe, but 64 GB of storage in 2019 was neither professional nor deluxe. At the 256 and 512 GB tiers, prices are $50 lower this year.

But the main thing to take away is that the prices are much more continuous. Last year there was a gaping $300 chasm between the iPhone 11 and the 11 Pro; this year that difference is only $120. You don’t have to be Jeff Williams to figure out that OLED displays are expensive. 5G modems — exclusively available from Apple’s bitter frenemy Qualcomm — are probably expensive too, but with the Pro models going down in price year-over-year, it seems clear that the single biggest factor is OLED vs. LCD. When the iPhone 11 was LCD and the 11 Pros were OLED — and in 2018 when there was an LCD/OLED split between the XR and XS models — there was a gaping difference in price. This year, with all iPhone 12 models on OLED, there is no pricing gap.

12 Pro vs. 12 Pro Max and the Rather Confusing Nomenclature and Technical Differences Between Their Cameras

When Apple introduced the “Max” moniker with 2018’s iPhone XS, the proposition was much like that of the 12 and 12 Mini this year: the only difference was size. That was true last year with the 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max, too. For me, someone who desired the very best camera system Apple makes but not the biggest-ass display size, that was great.

No such good fortune this year.

The 12 Pro Max has several camera advantages over the 12 Pro, harking back to the iPhone 6 / 6S / 7 era, when the Plus models had camera features their regular-sized siblings did not.2 Herewith, I believe, is the full accounting of the differences between the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max, camera by camera:

  • Front-facing (a.k.a. “TrueDepth”, a.k.a. “selfie”): Same across all iPhone 12 models.

  • Ultra Wide (0.5×): Same across all iPhone 12 models.

  • Wide (1×): Same on iPhone 12, 12 Mini, and 12 Pro, with a new ƒ/1.6 lens that captures 27 percent more light than last year’s 1× wide lens. The 12 Pro Max has the same ƒ/1.6 lens, but also has an altogether different sensor that is 47 percent larger than the 1× camera sensor on the other models. This bigger sensor has the same number of pixels (12 MP = 4032 × 3024), but those pixels are bigger. The larger sensor combined with the new-to-all-models ƒ/1.6 lens means the 1× wide camera on the 12 Pro Max captures 87 percent more light than last year’s iPhone 11 models. And that’s not all: in addition to being bigger, the new Pro Max’s 1× camera sensor exclusively features sensor-shift OIS, stabilizing the sensor rather than the lens, which according to Apple is beneficial both for photos and video. This sensor-shift OIS is also what enables the 12 Pro Max’s ability to capture up to 2-second exposures handheld, which, if it works as Apple describes, is a breakthrough that would be impractical in non-computational photography. Bottom line: all iPhone 12 models have the same 1× camera lens, which is faster than last year’s models, but the 12 Pro Max also has a bigger sensor and sensor-shift OIS.

  • Telephoto: This is the lens that the non-Pro models do not have. On the iPhone 12 Pro, it’s a 2× ƒ/2.0 lens with equivalent field of view to a 52mm lens. On the 12 Pro Max, it’s a 2.5× ƒ/2.2 lens equivalent to a 65mm lens. The sensors, apparently, are the same or effectively the same. 2.5× is “better” than 2.0× because it’s longer, offering more effective optical zoom. But ƒ/2.0 is “better” than ƒ/2.2, because it lets in more light. But whatever low-light advantage the 12 Pro’s ƒ/2.0 aperture might have over the 12 Pro Max’s ƒ/2.2 aperture, in practice this is almost certainly effectively moot, because in low-light situations the camera system probably gets better results using the faster 1× camera and digitally zooming to a 2×/2.5× crop factor.

Apple has confused all of this by promoting “4×” (12 Pro) and “5×” (12 Pro Max) “optical zoom range”. How can you get 4× or 5× optical zoom out of 2× and 2.5× lenses? What Apple is talking about here is the full range of optical zoom from the ultra wide 0.5× lens to the telephoto 2×/2.5× lenses. I think they’re doing this because the marketing looks better to say 4×/5× rather than 2×/2.5×.

Despite my being both a prosumer-grade camera enthusiast and professional-grade iPhone nerd, even I continually get confused when Apple refers to the 1× back camera as “wide”. Here’s how Apple refers to the lenses:

  • 0.5×: ultra wide
  • 1×: wide
  • 2/2.5×: telephoto

Here’s how my mind thinks about the lenses:

  • 0.5×: wide / zoomed out
  • 1×: regular
  • 2/2.5×: telephoto / zoomed in

To me, “1×” unambiguously implies “regular/default/normal”. (And yes, I know that in traditional photography, “normal” is lingo for a 50mm lens, roughly what the iPhone 2× lens offers. I’m using normal in the common sense of the word.) It just never fits my mental model to think of the 1× default lens as “wide”.

The Photographic Differentiators Between the 12 Pro Models and the non-Pro Ones

The biggest difference, most obviously, is the existence of a telephoto lens at all. Also, the existence of a lidar sensor, which the 12 Pro models use for faster autofocus in low light (6 times faster, according to Apple) and to enable Night Mode portrait shots.

All iPhone 12 models support shooting Dolby Vision 10-bit HDR video. But the 12 and 12 Mini only support Dolby Vision HDR at 30 FPS — the Pro models both support up to 60 FPS.

Apple’s upcoming ProRAW features — which will enable shooting RAW images using the built-in Camera app and a bunch of new APIs for third-party camera and photo-editing apps — are exclusive to the 12 Pro models. (Apple says ProRAW is coming “later this year” — I’m guessing that means iOS 14.2.)

When you consider the camera specs alone, that seems like pure marketing spite. All iPhone 12 models have the A14 SoC with the same CPU, GPU, and Neural Engine. But there might be a technical reason ProRAW is limited to the iPhone 12 Pro models: according to the latest version of Xcode, the 12 Pro models have 50 percent more RAM than the iPhone 12 and 12 Mini (6 GB vs. 4 GB). It seems reasonable to assume that ProRAW and 60 FPS Dolby Vision encoding are RAM-hungry features. But because Apple never ever talks about RAM in iOS devices, even in the small print of their advertised tech specs, this comes across as purely marketing-driven differentiation.

How Small Is the iPhone 12 Mini?

The iPhone 12 Mini is, by today’s standards, really small. It’s larger than the old 4-inch display models (5 / 5S / original SE) but noticeably smaller than the 4.7-inch display models (6 / 6S / 7 / 8 / new SE). Here’s an illustrative screenshot from Apple’s ever-excellent iPhone “Compare” page:

Side by side comparison of the iPhones SE (1st generation), 12 Mini, and SE (2nd generation).

On Twitter, Kate Matthews posted a series of helpful size comparison illustrations.

If you were holding out for a X-class iPhone significantly smaller than the 5.8-inch iPhone X, your patience has finally been rewarded. The iPhone 12 Mini seems like a fantastic device. You save $100 and pay no penalty in camera quality, performance, display brightness or color gamut. It’s just smaller. Battery life takes a hit compared to the regular iPhone 12, but, judging by Apple’s quoted numbers, the battery life difference seems commensurate with device volume. You can’t simultaneously clamor for a smaller device and a bigger battery.

The Missing iPhones

So Apple now sells modern X-class iPhones in small, medium, and large sizes. But a truly complete lineup would have two additional models: a non-Pro iPhone 12 Max and an iPhone 12 Pro Mini. Given that there is now a technology gap between the regular-size 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max camera systems (see above), it seems unfair to assume a 12 Pro Mini with all the features of the regular 12 Pro is possible without undesirable tradeoffs. There may well not be room for all the 12 Pro camera system features in a Mini-sized device.

But a non-Pro 12 Max is obviously technologically feasible. That’s a product Apple simply chooses not to make. If you want a big 6.7-inch display, you have to pay Pro prices, even if you don’t care about any of the Pro features or accoutrements (extra camera lens, lidar, premium stainless steel finish, sleeker wallpapers, etc.).

My purely hypothetical non-Pro iPhone 12 Max would slot into the product line as follows, presuming the same $100 difference as the Pro models. I’ll toss in the also-hypothetical 12 Pro Mini to complete this theoretically-complete lineup:

64 GB 128 GB 256 GB 512 GB
iPhone 12 Pro Max $1,100 $1,200 $1,400
iPhone 12 Pro 1,000 1,100 1,300
iPhone 12 Pro Mini 900 1,000 1,200
iPhone 12 Max 930 980 1,080
iPhone 12 830 880 980
iPhone 12 Mini 730 780 880

Look at that chart. One reason both of these hypothetical missing models are unlikely is that they muddle the middle. It was a problem in the last few years that there was a gap in the middle of the price range; with a Pro Mini and non-Pro Max, we’d have a confusing glut in the heart of the price range, with at least 8 configurations between $880–1,000.

But I think a non-Pro iPhone Max model, in particular, would be really popular, because I think a lot of people desire big-ass phones solely for the display size. And I think Apple doesn’t make them because a lot of people who really care that much about having the largest possible display will just pay the premium for the Pro Max. This product strategy is true for the iPad and MacBook lineups, too — Apple’s biggest displays are only in its “Pro” models. A 16-inch MacBook Air and 12.9-inch iPad Air would undeniably both be popular, but would cannibalize sales of the more expensive Pro models with the largest displays.

But, along those lines, it thus seems to me that of the two “missing” iPhones — Pro Mini and non-Pro Max — we’re more likely to someday see the one that’s more technically challenging (the Pro Mini) because it’s a product that would sell at a higher price to people whose first concern is size. But my gut says we’ll never see either of them.

People are complaining about Apple pinching pennies by no longer including the power adapter and headphones with new iPhones, but to me, the most notable omissions across the board are entire products that don’t exist: non-Pro iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks with large displays.

Speaking of the Stuff Apple No Longer Includes in the Box

I’m unequivocally in favor of no longer including headphones in the box. The move away from including power adapters is a little iffier, but I think it’s right. I think of it this way: they were never “free”. Whatever the price for the iPhone was, that price included the cost of the bundled power adapter. So if they’re included in the box, you might be (and in my case, personally, often were) paying for a power adapter and headphones you neither want nor need. And Apple has lowered the prices on their own peripherals: their Lightning earbuds and 20W power adapter (which replaces the 18W adapter they included with iPhone Pros last year) are each $19; they used to cost $29.

Not including the power adapter in the box also clearly nudges people toward spending the $39 for the new MagSafe charger (which does not itself include a power adapter), in the same way that removing the headphone jack nudged people toward buying AirPods. Cynically, yes, such nudging is in the direction of buying more stuff from Apple. But it’s also the direction of a better user experience. The future is clearly not iPhones with USB-C ports instead of Lightning, but iPhones with no ports at all, like Apple Watch.

If you want to argue that it’s a silent $38 price hike, fine, it’s a $38 price hike. But by that logic, savvy buyers who don’t need wired earbuds or yet another USB-C power adapter are getting a $38 discount. As a general rule in life, it’s better to pay for what you need.

5G 5G 5G

Did you hear about 5G and Verizon’s 5G network? If you watched the event, you certainly did. If you didn’t, here’s a supercut of every mention of “5G”.

Apple once named an iPhone after a cellular network technology upgrade and somehow this 5G stuff felt more heavy-handed. I just don’t see 5G as all that meaningful, and mentioning “5G” several dozen times throughout the event doesn’t change that. Going from 2G “EDGE” to 3G was a breakthrough in performance. 3G to LTE was significant. But today, when it comes to complaints and wishes for your phone, is “LTE is not fast enough” even on your list?

Before introducing the iPhone 12, Tim Cook handed the stage (literally — this part was shot in Apple’s Steve Jobs Theater) to Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg for four minutes. Four very long, conspicuous minutes. Vestberg was fine — this was not a Stan Sigman fiasco — but it just felt so gratuitous. I don’t know what Verizon paid Apple for this slot in the event, but it must have been a fortune (probably in marketing, advertising, and in-store promotion, not necessarily cash). Good god would I love to be privy to the negotiations between Apple, Verizon, and AT&T for this. (I just presume T-Mobile was not in the running.)

Without delving deeply into details that, to be honest, I just don’t care about, there are two main types of 5G service. In Verizon’s parlance, these are “5G Nationwide” and “5G Ultra Wideband”. 5G Nationwide is best thought of as regular 5G — for most people in most places in most situations on most carriers, when their phone is getting 5G service, this is what they’re getting. 5G Ultra Wideband is faster, maybe way faster, but looking at coverage maps it’s sort of like Wi-Fi in scope — it’s only available outdoors and limited in range to specific streets. Ultra Wideband support on all iPhone 12 models is limited to the United States, and is the reason U.S. iPhone 12’s have a window on the side under the power button. (iPhone 12’s in Europe have their own ugly turds marring the side — stupid regulatory etchings that are mandatory over there.)

HomePod Mini

Looks cool, $99 sounds right, looking forward to hearing it in action. The upcoming Intercom feature seems neat, too.

Miscellaneous

  • As a watch nerd I get it, but it’s kind of funny that the HomePod Mini is the same price as some of Apple’s watch bands.

  • I’m fascinated by the degree to which so many of Apple’s new products are doing cool things with magnets, of all things. iPad covers and keyboards, Apple Watch band clasps, and now MagSafe chargers and cases for iPhones.

  • There’s a weird display brightness tech spec difference between the Pro and non-Pro models I don’t understand. On Apple’s Compare page, the display specs for the 12 and 12 Pro are identical — same size, same pixel count, same contrast ratio — except for brightness. The 12 Pro is listed as “800 nits max brightness (typical)”; the 12 says “625 nits max brightness (typical)”. Yet both have the same max brightness (1,200 nits) for HDR content. Are these different components?

  • During Apple’s event, the iPhone 12 scenes were set in daytime, the 12 Pro scenes were at night. Apple’s iPhone 12 web pages are white, the 12 Pro pages black. Pro = dark mode.

  • I asked around, and a little birdie confirmed that Lisa Jackson really went up on the roof of Apple Park for her segment of the show. It looked breathtaking. This stunt reminded me of (now-disgraced) Steve Wynn’s introduction of Wynn Las Vegas in 2005 (which he reprised three years later for its sibling Encore).

  • Unsurprisingly, there’s no Touch ID in the power button like on the new iPad Air. Nor any mention of better support for face mask awareness with Face ID.

  • This was the first flagship iPhone introduction without Phil Schiller. Schiller, in fact, emceed the entire introduction of the iPhone 3GS at WWDC 2009 while Steve Jobs was on medical leave. He even told us what the “S” stood for!

  • Speaking of 2009, you may remember HomePod Mini introducer Bob Borchers from Apple’s iPhone Guided Tour videos and commercials back around that timeframe.

  • Our long national off-center Lightning port nightmare is over. 


  1. The obvious thing I miss from in-person events is hands-on time with all of the announced products. I opened with this observation in my week-on-the-wrist review of the Series 6 Apple Watch. When it comes to color, material, and device size, you really need to see and hold and feel the products. But the bigger thing, really, is in-person nuance. I miss talking to my fellow hacks in the press, getting their impressions and thoughts. And I greatly miss talking to folks from Apple in person, both formally, through the official PR channel, and informally, simply by bumping into people I know. Like any meeting, in any sphere, the official product briefings are just higher-bandwidth in person than when conducted remotely. To me, the longer we go with this quarantine, the more glaringly obvious the endemic shortcomings of Zoom/Webex/whatever remote interaction become. It’s the difference between being able to chug straight from a cup and being forced to use an annoyingly narrow straw, despite being very thirsty. It sucks.

    And the unofficial interactions — they just don’t really happen the same way at all if they’re not in person. I’m not talking about anyone spilling state secrets — the folks at Apple who have the most interesting things to say are also the people who are the least likely to ever reveal anything that shouldn’t be revealed. I’m just talking about little things. Color, in the figurative sense. Insight into Apple’s thinking. Sometimes just gossip. Why certain things are the way they are — or are not the way they’re not — that the company isn’t going to publish or advertise. Apple, as a company, does not like to explain itself. Folks who work there, however, sometimes do. Even just a little.

    I miss it. ↩︎

  2. 2014’s iPhone 6 Plus had optical image stabilization for photos. In 2015 with the iPhones 6S, OIS remained Plus-only, but added support for video in addition to photos. In 2016, the iPhone 7 finally got OIS (for both photos and video), but the 7 Plus alone gained an entire second camera lens. ↩︎︎


Joe Biden: ‘Vote for America’ 

One of the best commercials I’ve ever seen.

‘Corruption, Anger, Chaos, Incompetence, Lies, Decay’ — The Trump Kakistocracy In Review 

The New York Times Editorial Board:

Mr. Trump stands without any real rivals as the worst American president in modern history. In 2016, his bitter account of the nation’s ailments struck a chord with many voters. But the lesson of the last four years is that he cannot solve the nation’s pressing problems because he is the nation’s most pressing problem.

He is a racist demagogue presiding over an increasingly diverse country; an isolationist in an interconnected world; a showman forever boasting about things he has never done, and promising to do things he never will.

Vote.

That Unremarked-Upon Thing on the Side of iPhone 12’s Is a 5G mmWave Antenna Window, But It’s Only There on U.S. Models 

Sean Hollister, writing for The Verge:

There’s a simple explanation behind the missing window, though: the iPhone 12 doesn’t support mmWave 5G outside of the United States. If you peruse Apple’s frequency bands page, you’ll see that compatibility with bands n260 and n261 are simply missing everywhere else in the world.

Honestly, I’m not sure it’s a huge loss. mmWave 5G does offer far higher speeds than the “nationwide” flavor of low-band 5G that you’ll also find rolling out today, but the only other consistent thing about mmWave is its inconsistency, since even outdoors, you might not find a signal from one street corner to the next.

People got excited when they saw this because it looks like the magnetic window for pairing an Apple Pencil to an iPad Pro.

Jose Altuve Has the Yips 

Tyler Kepner, writing for The New York Times:

Altuve, a second baseman, made two throwing errors in Game 2 on Monday, the first with two outs in the first inning. Manuel Margot followed with a three-run homer, and the Rays won by one run.

In Game 3 on Tuesday, with the Astros leading by 1-0 in the sixth inning, Altuve tried to start a double play but bounced his throw to second, well in front of shortstop Carlos Correa. Instead of having two outs and the bases empty, the Rays had no outs and two runners on. They went on to score five runs in the inning.

You don’t have to be Sigmund Freud to figure out what’s wrong with Altuve. His guilty conscience is consuming him because he’s been exposed as a cheater, and he’s now the most despised player — deservedly so — in the game. The Astros would already be heading to the World Series if not for his yips. Instead, they’re on the cusp of losing to the Rays, a solid team of fine players — bitter but worthy division rivals of the Yankees. All because of Altuve. You hate to see it.

NYT: ‘As Virus Spread Early On, Reports of Trump Administration Briefings Fueled Sell-Off’ 

Kate Kelly and Mark Mazzetti, reporting for The New York Times:

On the afternoon of Feb. 24, President Trump declared on Twitter that the coronavirus was “very much under control” in the United States, one of numerous rosy statements that he and his advisers made at the time about the worsening epidemic. He even added an observation for investors: “Stock market starting to look very good to me!” But hours earlier, senior members of the president’s economic team, privately addressing board members of the conservative Hoover Institution, were less confident. […]

The next day, board members — many of them Republican donors — got another taste of government uncertainty from Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council. Hours after he had boasted on CNBC that the virus was contained in the United States and “it’s pretty close to airtight,” Mr. Kudlow delivered a more ambiguous private message. He asserted that the virus was “contained in the U.S., to date, but now we just don’t know,” according to a document describing the sessions obtained by The New York Times.

The document, written by a hedge fund consultant who attended the three-day gathering of Hoover’s board, was stark. “What struck me,” the consultant wrote, was that nearly every official he heard from raised the virus “as a point of concern, totally unprovoked.”

Incompetent and corrupt.


Telegram, Apple, Belarus, and Conflating ‘Irrelevance’ With ‘Inconvenience’

Telegram CEO Pavel Durov has been writing about a controversy that I think is fairly summarized as follows: Pro-democracy protestors in Belarus have been using Telegram to (among many other purposes, of course) post information about those who stole the recent election for President Aleksandr Lukashenko. Apple asked Telegram to delete certain posts on the grounds that the posts revealed personal information contrary to App Store rules for “user generated content”.

Durov originally claimed Apple was asking Telegram to shut down certain channels; Apple says no, they’re just asking for specific posts to be taken down; but Durov says such posts are the entire point of said channels, so effectively Apple is asking Telegram to take down the channels. This whole issue of Apple injecting itself into the internal policing of a third-party social network is complicated, to say the least.

But at a second level, it’s not complicated. Durov:

Previously, when removing posts at Apple’s request, Telegram replaced those posts with a notice that cited the exact rule limiting such content for iOS users. However, Apple reached out to us a while ago and said our app is not allowed to show users such notices because they were “irrelevant”.

Similarly, when Facebook wanted to inform its users that 30% of the fees users were paying for online events went to Apple, Apple didn’t let Facebook do it saying this information was (once more) “irrelevant”.

I strongly disagree with Apple’s definition of “irrelevant”. I think the reason certain content was censored or why the price is 30% higher is the opposite of irrelevant.

This has nothing to do with relevance and everything to do with convenience. I’ve said it before and will adamantly say it again: it is prima facie wrong that one of the rules of the App Store is that an app is not allowed to explain the rules of the App Store. I’m hard pressed to think of an exception to this conviction, not just on Apple’s App Store, but in any sphere of life — whether a harmless game or the administration of the law


Medium Solves All Its Problems With Yet Another Altogether New Brand Identity 

Hats off to you if you figure out what their new logo represents. My wrong guess was that it was a weird “M”. I am, for some reason, reminded of Pepsi’s ill-fated tilt-to-the-future logo redesign from a decade ago.

The multi-talented Jane Manchun Wong — before temporarily (I hope!) deactivating her Twitter account — made a nice tutorial recreating Medium’s new mark using state-of-the-art illustration software.

The iPhone 12 and 12 Mini Cost $30 More Than Apple Suggests 

Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:

At the event, Apple referred to these products as starting at $699 (iPhone 12 mini) and $799 (iPhone 12), but those prices are not actually accurate unless you slap a big asterisk on there. (As Apple does on its marketing pages, because it must.)

Here’s what’s actually happening, at least in the U.S.: Apple has cut deals with AT&T and Verizon that give existing customers of those carriers $30 off their purchases. The actual prices of the two models are $729 and $829, and that’s what you’ll pay if you’re a U.S. subscriber to Sprint, T-Mobile, any smaller pay-as-you-go carriers, or if you want to buy a SIM-free model with no carrier connection at all. (The 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max are the same price on all carriers.)

Outrageous? No. Unseemly? Yes.

Yours Truly on CNBC Yesterday, Before Apple’s Event 

Look at me, on the TV. (My comments hold up pretty well post-event, I think.)

The Difference a Year Makes 

Mark Gurman, tonight:

Testing 5G on an Android flagship in Los Angeles (a major city obviously) on T-Mobile — consistently seeing worse to equivalent on 5G versus 4G. Where’s the improvement? […]

I was sort of surprised how much time Apple spent marketing 5G today. When 3G got improvements in 2011 with the iPhone 4s, Apple basically shrugged it off. When they added 4G, it was very much positioned as a checking a box. This year, it’s almost the whole story.

Mark Gurman, 13 months ago:

I’ve seen a short-sighted meme from the usual suspects that the iPhone 11 is fine without 5G support because the U.S. doesn’t have much 5G coverage. Remember: People now keep phones for 3 years, and 5G will be strong in key markets within 12 months, including China and the U.S.

Revolutionary, Indeed 

This is the Revolution R180 — a $270 toaster “controlled by a touchscreen with 63 precise settings for everything from bread and bagels to English Muffins and waffles”.

This is a 25-year-old internet joke that the people who made this toaster should have read before creating it.

Online Sportsbooks FanDuel’s Stats Are Down Too 

Stephanie Dube Dwilson, writing for Heavy:

FanDuel scores are still down as of early afternoon, and some fans are wondering just how long it’s going to take to get the service up and running again. Live scoring from FanDuel’s stats provider was down this weekend and scores still haven’t been updated in the service itself by early Monday afternoon. RealitySportsOnline was also experiencing issues and has been working with a different provider to update their stats. Here’s a look at what’s happening and what we know so far.

Seems likely this same data provider is also the cause of Siri’s four-days-and-counting live sports outage — apparently a company called Stats Perform, who has been very quiet on Twitter. I just asked Siri for the score of the currently in-progress game 3 of the ALCS and I got the score of last night’s game 2.

Google Assistant, of course, got it right. You want it done right, you might need to do it yourself.

HomePod, HomePod Mini Pairing, New Home Theater Support Coming 

Jim Dalrymple, writing for The Loop:

The short answer is no. You can’t make a stereo pair of a HomePod and a HomePod mini. You can make a stereo pair of two HomePods or two HomePod minis, but you can’t mix and match the two products. Now, if you have a HomePod and a HomePod mini in your house, they will work together so you can play music throughout the house or use the intercom feature. So, they do work together.

This makes sense — to create a stereo pair, you need to pair two of the same HomePods. But for just playing the same audio in multiple rooms, all HomePods work together.

There is an update coming for HomePod that will add features announced today as part of the HomePod mini launch. Those new features include Intercom from one HomePod to another, personal update, Maps continuity, multiuser support for Podcasts, support for third-party music services as they become available.

No word from Apple on when we might expect these features, other than in the future. That might sound snarky but I don’t mean it to be. I think there’s a lot of coordination required for these features — updates to iOS, tvOS, and the HomePod’s OS — and “coming soon” is just an honest answer.

Siri’s Sports Integration Has Been Down for Three Days 

I cracked wise on Twitter Sunday afternoon after I asked Siri for the score of a football game that had already ended and Siri replied with the starting time for the game, four hours in the past. (Which led to this amusing reply.)

Turns out this wasn’t a brief hiccup. Siri’s ability to report sports scores was down all weekend. No scores for the Lakers-Heat NBA Finals clincher Sunday night, no football scores, and here we are on Tuesday morning and Siri still can’t tell me, say, when the Dodgers and Braves next play.

The timing could be entirely coincidental and this is just an unplanned outage, but I can’t help but wonder if this is related to some sort of Siri upgrade debuting at today’s Apple event.

From the DF Archive: ‘Flowers Are for Chumps’ 

The item earlier today on Tim Sneath opening up a new-in-box G4 iMac brought to mind this piece I wrote on Valentine’s Day 2003. This was a good one.

DuckDuckGo Now Has Driving and Walking Directions Via Partnership With Apple Maps 

DuckDuckGo:

Now we’re excited to announce a big step forward with the introduction of directions — private, as always, and like our embedded maps, powered by Apple’s MapKit JS framework and already familiar to millions of users.

You’ll now see a new addition to location and map search results that will help you plan trips by showing you a route overview, distance and travel time. Look out for it both at the top of search results that display a map, as well as within our expanded map module.

Example: walking directions from Big Ben to the Tower of London.

A lot of people have been wondering for a long time why Apple doesn’t launch its own search engine. Some think they actually are building toward that. Others wonder why Apple doesn’t just buy DuckDuckGo.

Those are good questions. But in the meantime, Apple and DuckDuckGo continue a fruitful but quiet partnership.

Spotify, Ever the Fans of Openness 

SongShift is a nifty utility that lets you move playlists from one streaming music service to another. They support a bunch of services, including Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora, YouTube Music, and more. But one of these services is being a dick:

Unfortunately, as of SongShift v5.1.2, you will no longer be able to create transfers from Spotify to another music service. We understand this will be a disappointment for a lot of you. We wish we didn’t have to.

Why then?

The Spotify Developer Platform Team reached out and let us know we’d need to remove transferring from their service to a competing music service or have our API access revoked due to TOS violation. While this is not the news we wanted to hear, we respect their decision.

As we advance

To continue to provide some level of support for Spotify, we’ll still be supporting transferring from other services to Spotify.

Spotify: happy to let you move playlists to their service, unwilling to let you move them from their service.

Tim Sneath Unboxes a 2004 iMac G4 

Fun thread, both in the beginning, when he’s tweeting under the conceit that it’s a genuinely new machine, and at the end, when he breaks character. (The iMac actually is new-in-box, which is cool, but you know what I mean by “genuinely new” here.)

There’s no question that the rate of progress for PCs has slowed tremendously. This 2004 Mac is radically better, more capable, and less expensive than one from 1989, in a way that’s not true comparing a 2004 iMac to one from today. That’s the nature of progress. The industry made just as much amazing progress in the last 15 years, but the vertigo-inducing radical progress happened in phones, not PCs.

Now, I think, phones are today where PCs were around 2004. (I count iPads as big phones in the context of this argument.)

Instabug: Application Performance Monitoring Built for Mobile Apps 

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Apple Is Extending Some Apple TV+ Subscriptions Through February 2021 for Free 

Matthew Panzarino, writing at TechCrunch:

Apple told me today that it will be extending Apple TV+ subscriptions that are set to end November 1, 2020 through January 31, 2021 through their billing date in February of 2021.

The basic situation is that Apple gave away a free year of Apple TV+ to new device purchasers last year and those are all set to end in November. Apple knows everyone is still looking at a tough winter ahead filled with COVID-related restrictions so it’s bumping those subs out to February.

With Apple putting this out the week before new iPhones are announced, I take it to mean that new iPhones purchased this year will not come with a free year of TV+. That was a last year thing. Perhaps, though, new iPhones purchased this year will come with some sort of sweetener for Apple One subscriptions? That’s what I would do if I were Apple.

‘Did You Write Mine?’ 

Marty Noble, himself now dead, writing about an encounter in Cooperstown with Whitey Ford back in 2010:

Because I no longer covered the Mets, as I had done for decades, he lost track of me. So when our paths crossed at the Otesaga, the hotel headquarters for Hall of Fame weekend, he asked what had become of me.

“I can’t find you on the box [the computer] anymore,” he said.

“Well, I have different assignments now,” I said. “Columns and features and I do a lot of obituaries of baseball people.”

“Jeez, how many guys die?” he said.

I explained that parts of obituaries are written well before deaths occur so that stories can be posted quickly when needed. “Newspapers have many obits done for famous people,” I said. “The [New York] Times updates the president’s almost every day.”

After a moment’s thought, Whitey looked at me quizzically and asked, “So, did you write mine?”

I said, “Yeah, as a matter of fact, I did.”

“How’d it turn out?” he asked.

Hodinkee Radio: All About the Apple Watch Series 6 and WatchOS 7 

The new episode of the Hodinkee Radio podcast is all about Apple Watch. First up, Hodinkee’s Stephen Pulvirent has a really good interview with Apple VP of human interface design Alan Dye. Next, a roundtable discussion between Pulvirent, Om Malik, and yours truly.

The Talk Show: ‘I’m Expecting Led Zeppelin IV’ 

MG Siegler returns to the show to talk about Apple Watch, the future of premium TV and movies, and a preview of next week’s “Hi, Speed” Apple event.

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Yankees Great Whitey Ford, ‘Chairman of the Board’, Dies at 91 

Mark Feinsand, writing for MLB.com:

The left-hander — nicknamed “The Chairman of the Board” by batterymate Elston Howard — went 236-106 with a 2.75 ERA during his 16 years with New York, winning his only Cy Young Award in 1961. Ford, whose .690 winning percentage is the highest of any pitcher with at least 150 victories in the modern era, was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974.

“I grew up on Long Island, not too far from Yankee Stadium,” Ford said during his Hall of Fame induction. “I was a Yankee fan since I was five or six years old. To think when I was 21 years old I’d be playing with [Joe] DiMaggio and [Yogi] Berra against guys like Stan Musial and Roy Campanella, it’s just something I can’t fathom. It’s just been great.” […]

Ford pitched in 11 World Series during his 16 seasons, winning six rings. His 10 World Series victories remain the most of any pitcher in history.

Richard Goldstein, for The New York Times:

Methodical on the mound, Ford was irrepressible off it. He joined with Mantle and Billy Martin for late nights on the town, inspiring Stengel to call them the Three Musketeers. Mantle, too, entered the Hall of Fame in 1974, and at the induction ceremony he was asked about the chemistry behind the friendship between him, the country boy from Oklahoma, and Ford, who grew up on the streets of Queens. “We both liked Scotch,” he said.

Business Insider: Microsoft Plans to Bring Xbox Game Pass to iOS as a Web App 

Ashley Stewart, reporting for Business Insider:

Microsoft’s gaming boss Phil Spencer told employees at an all-hands meeting on Wednesday the company is planning to bring Game Pass to Apple’s iPhone and iPad, targeting 2021 for the potential release of a “direct browser-based solution,” Business Insider has learned.

“We absolutely will end up on iOS,” Spencer told employees, according to two people with direct knowledge of his comments. Microsoft did not comment at the time of publication.

I wondered if the web app route might be what Microsoft would try after Amazon announced that’s what it’s doing for its game streaming service. Really curious to see how well this will work.