Arun Maini’s Battery Life Stress Test for the New iPhones 13 ★
YouTuber Arun “Mrwhosetheboss” Maini’s full battery life drain test of the iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 11, and iPhone SE. Interesting results that jibe with Apple’s claims about the improvements to battery life in the iPhones 13.
Via Avi Greengart, who observes the most impressive result:
It’s worth watching Arun’s whole video, but the iPhone 13 mini
handily beats last year’s full-sized iPhone 12 on battery life,
making it an easy recommendation for anyone with human-sized
hands. The entire iPhone 13 line has genuinely good to
extraordinary battery life.
The iPhone 13 Mini has longer battery life than last year’s regular iPhone 12. That’s a game-changer for those who want the Mini size.
Try Safari 15 Before You Buy, With Safari Technology Preview ★
MacOS 12 Monterey is not out yet — and, I hope, won’t ship until after a few more weeks of much-needed bug fixes — but Safari 15 for MacOS 11 Big Sur shipped last week. I strongly recommend not upgrading, unless you’ve already tried the new tab design and like it, or at least feel ambivalent about it. Updates like this are why I always turn off “Automatically keep my Mac up to date” in System Preferences → Software Update.
The sole reason I recommend not upgrading to Safari 15 is the new tab bar design. You can easily try it out for yourself, though, without upgrading to Safari 15 or installing the MacOS 12 betas. Safari Technology Preview is a separate version of Safari you can easily install next to regular Safari. Typically it’s used by web developers to test in-progress changes to WebKit, but right now it’s more useful as a way to preview the new Safari 15 tab design. It’s easy to install and easy to uninstall. You can even set it as your default web browser while testing in System Preferences: General.
Friday, 24 September 2021
Daring Fireball Weekly Sponsorships for Q4 ★
Sponsorships have been selling briskly this year, but I’ve only just now opened spots for the October-December quarter.
Plus, a last-minute change has opened up next week’s spot, starting this coming Monday.
One sponsor per week, with a sponsor-written entry in the RSS feed to start the week, a thank-you post right on the homepage from me at the end, and the one and only graphic ad on every page of the site all week long. No tracking or other privacy-invasive bullshit. Just plain honest ads. That’s not new — that’s the way the ads on DF have always been. My best argument that they work: the number of repeat companies in the sponsor archive list.
So if you’ve got a product or service you’d like to promote to DF’s discerning audience, I’d love to have you as a sponsor.
And if you’re ready to grab next week’s opening, let’s go — should be another good week.
Aundre Larrow, announcing his directorial debut:
Shot on the new iPhone 13 Pro, Float is a short film about the
journey that a father and daughter take together.
If this doesn’t move you, you’re not hooked up right. Good god, what a powerful, lovely, beautiful short film. Headphones and full screen — this deserves your attention. I take it back, Cinematic mode — which Larrow used to shoot this — is no gimmick at all.
This is just astonishing. Remember Aundre Larrow’s name.
iPhone Day Is Still a Thing ★
I shot this video while walking past the Philly Apple Store at 2 pm. The line went most of the way down the block. I’ll bet the line was longer than it would have been without COVID restrictions, but still — this is the 15th generation of iPhones and people are still lining up to buy them on the day they’re available. And how many more people had them delivered today, waking up early a week ago to preorder the moment the online store came online? People love the iPhone. If you look at it solely as a technology product you’re missing the biggest part of the iPhone story. iPhone Day is a de facto annual holiday for untold millions of people around the world.
That’s not true of any other product in the world.
Apple’s iOS Changes Are Hurting Facebook’s Ad Business ★
Alex Kantrowitz, writing for CNBC:
“Just completely running blind” is how Aaron Paul, a performance
Facebook marketer, described it. Paul said his company, Carousel,
moved from spending millions of dollars each day on Facebook to a
few hundred thousand dollars. Before the iOS changes, Facebook
generated 80% of the traffic Carousel sent to its product pages.
Now it accounts for 20%.
Apple’s iOS changes may lead to irreparable harm to Facebook’s ad
business. This moment has demonstrated to Paul and his fellow
performance buyers that relying on one channel (albeit a very
effective one) is risky. So they’re looking to diversify their ad
spend. Paul said he’s moved his ad budget elsewhere, including
“Snapchat and TikTok, but also silent killers like email.” On
Twitter, Facebook marketers discussing Apple’s changes
almost unanimously agreed they needed to follow suit.
Another Sign of Microsoft Establishing ‘Surface’ as a Standalone Brand ★
To my point yesterday about Microsoft establishing “Surface” as a brandname, sans “Microsoft” as a prefix — the headline on the Surface homepage (which redirects from surface.com): “New laptops from Surface, now with Windows 11”.
App Store Release Notes of the Week: Poolsuite FM ★
This is the most joyful way of saying “We’re sorry our iOS 15 compatibility update was a few days late” I can imagine. What a fun app.
Monotype Acquires Hoefler & Co. ★
Nothing’s changing at typography.com, where you’ll still find all
1,113 fonts in the Hoefler&Co library, as well as the
cloud.typography webfont service, and all the other resources
we’ve created for designers and brands. The H&Co team is staying
in place, too, and there are yet more typefaces from us that you
can look forward to seeing soon. […]
In the meantime, I’ll be stepping down from my role in the
company, to finally make the time to recharge, reflect, and
explore some new ideas. In these past few years, participating in
a documentary and using typography to help elect a
president have been potent reminders of just how many ways
there are for type to make a difference, and just how many people
are moved by the splendor of typography.
I’d need 144-point type to express my surprise at this announcement.
iPhone 13 Pro Works, But Fits Poorly With MagSafe Duo Charger ★
(Remembers that the MagSafe Duo Charger costs $130.)
My Advice on How to Set Up a New iPhone or iPad: Quick Start Device-to-Device Transfer ★
A bunch of you are probably getting new iPhones (and iPads) today. As someone who’s set up 5 new devices in the last week, my advice is to restore a new iPhone with the Quick Start device-to-device transfer, not iCloud backup. Don’t worry if it says it might take a little longer this way, it’s worth it. Get a cup of coffee or a bite to eat. A watched pot never boils; a watched transfer never finishes.
Device-to-device is better because it moves over all your login credentials. When you restore from an iCloud backup, you wind up logged out of a lot of apps on the new device. When you restore device-to-device, almost everything moves over. I know there are exceptions, but I don’t think I bounced into a single app that didn’t keep me fully logged in this week. If you tried device-to-device a few years ago and found it lacking, try it again now — Apple has improved this process every year since it debuted. Worst case scenario, you can always start over and use iCloud backup.
Also, you do not need to unpair your Apple Watch from your old iPhone using this method. You can just wear your watch the whole time. When the transfer is complete, the new iPhone will prompt you, asking if you want to move your watch to the new iPhone. Your mileage may vary but it just worked for me.
I posted this on Twitter tonight, and realized I should post about this here too. The Twitter thread has a bunch of Q&A’s about specific apps, like authentication tokens in Authy (they transfer fine).
Update, 25 September 2021: Lots of positive feedback from readers who took my advice. Perfect? No. But I’m more convinced than ever that device-to-device transfer is the way to go. Apple has done a lot of work, year after year, to keep making this migration experience better, faster, simpler, more complete, and more reliable. I see it firsthand, setting up multiple new iOS devices a year. The team behind this doesn’t get enough thanks, so let me say it: thank you.
Thursday, 23 September 2021
Om Malik on the New iPad Mini ★
The best way to extract the most out of the smallest iPad is to
think of it as a device enhanced by non-keyboard input methods — Scribble with Pencil, snapping photos with the cameras, or
using Siri/voice input. The improved “Scribble” allows you to
make notes, do quick searches, and even find directions. It is a
very addictive way to use the iPad, especially in the smaller
The more I use the device, the more I realize that most computing
has been defined by a singular idea of work and productivity.
Mobile devices have and will continue to redefine our work. In the
past, most of the computing involved being in the office. Now,
non-office tasks have access to computing resources and thus offer
an opportunity to make them more productive. Devices like the iPad
are about making non-office work a bit more productive. Whether it
is doctors, field engineers, or delivery drivers, devices such as
the iPad in general and iPad Mini, in particular, could help
change the very notion of productivity.
What makes Om’s perspective interesting to me is that he switched to an iPad Pro as his main computer a few years back, and loves it. The iPad Mini isn’t an alternative to those sort of use cases — but as he points out, there are so many things people do with “computers” today that just weren’t imagined even a decade ago.
I’m sort of the anti-Om in this regard. I have a 2018 iPad Pro that I generally keep in my kitchen, connected to a Magic Keyboard. Ever since the Magic Keyboard came out (with trackpad support and good keyboard shortcut support in iPadOS), I’ve found the iPad Pro much more useful for my work. But nowhere near as useful as a Mac. I’m not arguing that a MacBook is better than an iPad for work. I’m just saying MacOS works better for me. Not even close. Getting in the flow on my Mac, I feel 10 times more productive than I ever do on my iPad Pro. But the iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard is good enough that I now suspect it leads me to punt around in the kitchen drinking coffee much longer than I should at the start of my workdays. I like an iPad for reading the news at the start of the day, but I might be better served with a more limited iPad Mini than a significantly more useful iPad Pro with Magic Keyboard, just because it’d push me to get to my office and sit my ass in front of my real work machine.
The Microsoft Event Had In-Person Hands-On Time With Products ★
Carolina Milanesi, on Twitter:
I had the opportunity to see the new @surface devices live … and I
am so glad I did.
Holding #SurfaceDuo in my hand, seeing the clever case that
secures the #SurfacePen that looks like a finish rather than a
case not adding any thickness, the fluidity of the screen and
the clever gaming controls…. Very much looking forward to giving
it a spin!
Amen to this enthusiasm for seeing the product introduction live. I get it why Apple did not hold an in-person press event last week — iPhone events are huge, and while I think small events can safely be held in person now, there’s no practical way to shrink the iPhone event.
I miss having hands-on time with new devices as soon as keynotes end. You pick up on things immediately: that something is heavier or lighter than you expected. That certain colors or finishes look different. Remember the Jet Black iPhone 7? You had to see it in person to understand how it looked. And I miss in-person briefings, both official ones and unofficial. In-person communication simply cannot be beaten for conveying subtlety.
Product reviews are hampered too. With in-person Apple events, most reviewers get kit in the hours after the keynote ends. With virtual Apple events, the kit ships for delivery the next day. An extra day makes a big difference when the review embargo drops just one week after the event.
Highlights From Microsoft’s Fall Surface Event ★
Nice supercut video from The Verge squeezing Microsoft’s Surface event yesterday into eight minutes. A few thoughts:
It seems like Microsoft is letting the Surface division stand on its own, brand-wise. They’re not distancing themselves from Microsoft in any way, but branding-wise they’re just letting the products be the “Surface Whatever”, not the “Microsoft Surface Whatever”. There’s even a moment in the event, regarding the folding Duo 2 phone, when a guy says it has “the most precise and reliable hinge mechanism ever engineered at Surface”. I.e. that it was “Surface” who engineered that hinge, not “Microsoft”. I think Surface works as a Microsoft sub-brand like that.
Speaking of the Surface Duo 2 — their folding phone with two screens — they’re now just calling it what they should have called it all along: a phone. It’s a very interesting and unique form factor, but it’s a big folding phone, not a small folding tablet. It supposedly has real cameras this time, too. Starting price: $1,500.
The new Surface Laptop Studio looks really dumb to me. I don’t understand why one would ever want to use it in either of the new folding positions. I guess maybe if you really want to draw on it, you might want to fold it flat, but if you really want to draw that much, why not buy the Surface Pro 8 that detaches from the keyboard? This design just seems dumb.
The Surface Slim Pen 2 introduces haptic feedback, to simulate the feel of a pen on paper. I love stuff like that.
Apple Watch Series 7 Supports 60.5GHz Wireless Data Transfer, Perhaps Only for Apple’s Internal Use ★
Joe Rossignol, reporting for MacRumors:
Apple Watch Series 7 models are equipped with a new module that
enables 60.5GHz wireless data transfer, according to FCC
filings viewed by MacRumors, but this functionality may be
reserved for Apple’s internal use only for now.
The filings indicate that the 60.5GHz module is only activated
when the Apple Watch is placed on a proprietary magnetic dock with
a corresponding 60.5GHz module, but this dock will likely be
reserved for use by Apple employees. For example, it’s possible
that Apple Stores might use the dock to wirelessly restore an
Apple Watch, and if so, it will be interesting to see if Series 7
models still have a hidden diagnostic port for wired connectivity.
This is a little interesting in and of itself. But if you look at the long-term trend, it’s a sign that Apple — along with the rest of the industry — is moving toward wireless technology for both charging and data transfer. Apple Watch exemplifies that — it’s never had a port, either for charging or data. There’s a diagnostic port hidden inside the bottom channel for the watch strap, but those diagnostics are neither charging nor data.
It’s long been my guess that iPhone is never going to support USB-C. I think it’s Apple’s intention to go straight from Lightning to wireless/inductive, with no “port”. Portless is the future for all devices. Yet the product design geniuses at the European Commission want to mandate all devices have one specific port in 2024 and indefinitely thereafter — a port that by that time will already be 10 years old.
European Commission Unveils Long-Awaited Stupid Proposal to Mandate USB-C on All Cell Phones and Devices ★
Elian Peltier, reporting for The New York Times:
The European Union unveiled plans on Thursday to make USB-C
connectors the standard charging port for all smartphones, tablets
and other electronic devices sold across the bloc, an initiative
that it says will reduce environmental waste but that is likely to
hit Apple the hardest.
The move would represent a long-awaited yet aggressive step into
product-making decisions by the European Commission, the bloc’s
executive arm. Apple, whose iPhones are equipped with a different
port, has long opposed the plan, arguing that it would stifle
innovation and lead to more electronic waste as all current
chargers that are not USB-C would become obsolete. […]
The new legislation is likely to come into effect in 2024
because it first needs to be approved by the European Parliament
and then adopted by manufacturers. Besides phones, it would apply
to cameras, headphones, portable speakers and video game consoles.
This is a profoundly stupid way to approach product design and
standardisation. What happens in 5 years when someone wants to use
a better connector? What if they’d picked USB 3 five years ago?
How stupid? This stupid:
But Apple has also argued that if the European Union had imposed a
common charger in 2009, it would have restricted innovation that
led to USB-C and Lightning connectors. In a statement, Apple said
that although it welcomed the European Commission’s commitment to
protecting the environment, it favored a solution that left the
device side of the charging interface open for innovation.
Mr. Breton said on Thursday that he was familiar with Apple’s
concerns. “Every time we try to put a proposal, such companies
start to say, ‘It will be against innovation,’” he said.
“It’s not at all against innovation. It’s not against anyone,” he
added. “It’s for European consumers.”
Mr. Breton said manufacturers, including Apple, could choose to
offer two charging ports on their devices if they wanted to keep a
Two charging ports on the same phone, what an elegant idea. This is like a parody of overzealous regulation of something that is not in need of any regulation at all. Why not mandate that all phones, tablets, and cameras have to run the same operating system, too? Oh, you say, it’s only about reducing waste? Why not mandate that all phones must be the same size and shape, so that they’re all compatible with the exact same cases? Great idea.
These E.U. meddlers have indeed been clamoring for this legislation since 2009 — Apple didn’t pick that date out of the air. At the time, iPhones used 30-pin iPod USB 1 adapters and most other phones used adapters like Micro-USB and (gag) Mini-USB. You don’t have to be a computer engineer to look back at your lifetime and realize that computer plugs and adapters keep getting smaller and better. Do they really think no one is going to come up with an adapter better than USB-C? Ever?
And don’t even start with any sort of argument that legislation like this won’t impede progress, but will instead force the industry to work together via committee to agree upon new better standards in a prompt fashion. Almost everything that goes through such committees takes years longer than one company can do on its own, and comes out worse — often far worse. Look at all the horrendously shitty USB plugs the USB consortium has come up with over the years.
And people in the E.U. wonder why England wanted out, and why nearly all the major tech companies are from the U.S. and Asia.
Austin Mann’s iPhone 13 Pro Camera Review: Tanzania ★
No big deal — just a safari expedition to Tanzania. Lions, leopards, giraffes. Ultra wide angle 4K 60 video shot from an iPhone 13 Pro mounted to a helicopter. Your typical iPhone camera review.
The review starts with a terrific movie — including some truly pro-looking Cinematic mode shots — by Taylor McKay.
I thought this was a pretty interesting observation from Mann:
Although the iPhone 13 Pro still only has three lenses, the
addition of macro capability is like adding a new lens altogether,
and for the serious photographer I think it’s perhaps the
strongest advancement in this year’s camera system. […]
Photographer or not, you’ve seen the big and heavy backpacks
photographers carry with them on every shoot. Whether it’s local
or international, we lug these bags full of lenses around because
each one offers a new perspective on whatever story it is that
As a photographer passionate about the natural world, I carry a
macro lens with me no matter what project I’m working on, just
because I never know what tiny detail of interest might present
itself. Now with the macro capability of the iPhone 13 Pro, I feel
like I have my “in-a-pinch” macro shots covered and I can leave
the rarely-used macro lens at home.
Everything you see in this video was shot with a $1,000 device meant to fit in your pocket.
Some great iOS 15 tips from Mann, too, including using the new Focus feature to create a custom “Shoot Mode” with no notifications whenever he’s using the Camera app or Halide. Also, Mann’s custom Photographic Style settings.
Software Update Adds Bluetooth Audio Support to the Nintendo Switch, Four Years After It Debuted ★
A story like this is why you shouldn’t misuse finally in headlines. Four years!
How Apple Built the iPhone 13’s Cinematic Mode ★
Great interview by Matthew Panzarino with Apple vice president Kaiann Drance and human interface designer Johnnie Manzari from Apple’s Camera team:
That’s not even counting tracking shots, where a focus puller is
continually adjusting focus as the camera moves and even the
subject moves in relation to the camera. It’s a highly skilled
operation. To pull off a tracking shot, a focus puller must
practice and train extensively for years. This, Manzari says, is
where Apple sees an opportunity.
“We feel like this is the kind of thing that Apple tackles the
best. To take something difficult and conventionally hard to
learn, and then turn it into something automatic and simple.”
So the team started working through the technical problems in
finding focus, locking focus and racking focus. And these
explorations led them to gaze.
“In cinema, the role of gaze and body movement to direct that
story is so fundamental. And as humans we naturally do this, if
you look at something, I look at it too.”
So they knew they would need to build in gaze detection to help
lead their focusing target around the frame, which in turn leads
the viewer through the story. Being on set, Manzari says, allowed
Apple to observe these highly skilled technicians and then build
in that feel.
Panzarino includes this three-minute video consisting of nothing but Cinematic mode clips from the trip to Disneyland he took with his family to test the new iPhones. There are some really neat shots in the video — I particularly like the one around the 1m:32s mark with his kids on the carousel. That change in focus is exactly what Cinematic mode was meant for.
But the other thing that Panzarino’s video exemplifies is that you don’t have to work to use Cinematic mode. No help from someone else (let alone a crew), no extra lighting, no more difficult than just shooting a regular video mode clip. Something anyone could do — and might want to do — on a hectic day at a fun theme park. If you screw up the focus while shooting you can easily fix it — or just improve it — later.
Apple’s Texas-Sized Problem ★
Judd Legum, writing at Popular Information:
On Friday, CEO Tim Cook answered a question about Apple’s stance
on the Texas ban at an all-staff meeting. Cook said that “the
company was looking into whether it could aid the legal fight
against the new law.”
Apple has considerable leverage over the abortion debate in Texas
and across the country — but it is not related to its ability to
pay for lawyers. Apple’s leverage rests in its status as a major
employer and driver of economic growth.
If Apple believes that its employees should be able to “make their
own decisions regarding their reproductive health,” it could
publicly state that it will not expand its workforce in states
that limit abortion rights. That would have a major influence not
only in Texas but in numerous states considering following Texas’
Last week, TechCrunch published the text of a company-wide memo posted to an internal Apple message board regarding Texas’s near-outlawing of abortion. It began:
A message about women’s reproductive health care
At Apple, we support our employees’ rights to make their own
decisions regarding their reproductive health.
Legum is right — it’s untenable for Apple, or any other company, to “support our employees’ rights to make their own decisions regarding their reproductive health” and ask any woman to work for the company in a state with a law like Texas’s. An immediate hiring and construction freeze in Texas — explicitly tied to this outrageous law (which makes no exceptions for rape or incest) — is the only tenable action compatible with Apple’s stated values.
David Simon, linking to Legum’s post:
If an employer, this is beyond politics. I’m turning in scripts
next month on an HBO non-fiction miniseries based on events in
Texas, but I can’t and won’t ask female cast/crew to forgo civil
liberties to film there. What else looks like Dallas/Ft. Worth?
That’s the answer. You move your business out of Texas. Any company that expands or initiates new operations in Texas implicitly supports Texas’s abortion ban.
Wednesday, 22 September 2021
Tim Sweeney, today on Twitter:
Late last night, Apple informed Epic that Fortnite will be
blacklisted from the Apple ecosystem until the exhaustion of all
court appeals, which could be as long as a 5-year process.
Sweeney posted a letter from Apple’s attorneys to Epic’s. It reads:
September 21, 2021
VIA ELECTRONIC MAIL
Cravath, Swaine & Moore LLP
825 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10019-7475
Re: Developer Program Account No. 8XJ6WJ8Z84
I am responding to your recent request that Apple reinstate Epic’s
developer program account, which was terminated for cause last
year. Epic committed an intentional breach of contract, and breach
of trust, by concealing code from Apple and making related
misrepresentations and omissions. In its decision, the court
recognized that “Apple had contractual rights to act as It did. It
merely enforced those rights as [Epic’s] own internal documents
show Epic Games expected.” ECF No. 812 at 178-79. The court
further found that “Apple’s termination of the [Developer Program
License Agreement] and the related agreements between Epic Games
and Apple was valid, lawful, and enforceable.” Id. at 179.
Following that decision, Mr. Sweeney has publicly said that Epic
“[w]ouldn’t trade [an alternative payment system] away to get
Fortnite back on iOS.” In light of this and other statements since
the court’s decision, coupled with Epic’s duplicitous conduct in
the past, Apple has exercised its discretion not to reinstate
Epic’s developer program account at this time. Furthermore, Apple
will not consider any further requests for reinstatement until the
district court’s judgment becomes final and nonappealable.
/s/ Mark A. Perry
Mark A. Perry
That’s lawyer-speak, I believe, for “go fuck yourselves”.1
Sweeney is crying foul, arguing that this contradicts Apple’s repeated public statements that Fortnite would be welcomed back to the App Store if they came into full compliance with App Store rules. Here’s a version of Apple’s statement from two weeks ago, via Protocol:
“As we’ve said all along, we would welcome Epic’s return to the
App Store if they agree to play by the same rules as everyone
else. Epic has admitted to breach of contract and as of now,
there’s no legitimate basis for the reinstatement of their
Apple’s lawyers’ characterization of Sweeney’s statement about being unwilling to trade something away “to get Fortnite back on iOS” does seem like a bit of a hatchet-job, quote-editing-wise. Sweeney tweeted the following on September 11, one day after the Epic-v.-Apple decision was delivered:
Thinking much more about whether we’re going to live in a world
where two platform megacorps dictate software and world commerce
to everyone or whether the digital world and the future metaverse
will be a free world. Wouldn’t trade that away to get Fortnite
back on iOS.
That doesn’t sound like the words of a man poised to comply with the App Store rules around in-app purchases. But, it doesn’t mean Epic wasn’t going to submit a Fortnite build that fully complies with the rules, either. Really does seem like Sweeney just thinking out loud in a tweet.
Sweeney also tweeted an email he sent to Phil Schiller on September 16. It reads:
From: Tim Sweeney
Date: Thu, Sep 16, 2021 at 5:01 PM
Subject: Fortnite and the App Store
To: Phil Schiller
I’m writing to provide clarity on where we stand.
Epic has appealed the court’s decision in our suit over Apple’s
policies on In-App Purchase and competing stores. Though we can’t
update the Fortnite version that users still have on their iOS
devices, we’ve disabled Epic payments server-side, and have paid
Apple $6,000,000 as ordered by the court.
Epic has asked Apple to reactivate our Fortnite development
account. Epic promises that it will adhere to Apple’s guidelines
whenever and wherever we release products on Apple platforms.
If we get the account back, we’ll bring Fortnite back to Mac as
soon as possible, and we’ll reincorporate Fortnite for iOS in our
Unreal Engine development and testing process, which will benefit
all of our mutual developers.
Whether Epic chooses to bring Fortnite back to iOS consumers
depends on whether and where Apple updates its guidelines to
provide for a level playing field between Apple In-App Purchase
and other methods of payment.
Epic will resubmit Fortnite to the App Store if you adhere to the
plain language of the court order and allow apps to include
buttons and external links that direct customers to other
purchasing mechanisms without onerous terms or impediments to a
good user experience. In that case, our remaining dispute will be
about competing stores, and I genuinely believe we could find
common ground on the topic if Apple’s position were based solely
on user security and privacy rather than commercial interests.
As a provider of developer tools, Epic continues to support Apple
platforms and our mutual developers wholeheartedly.
If you have any questions or thoughts, I’m happy to talk.
A few comments:
Epic promises that it will adhere to Apple’s guidelines whenever
and wherever we release products on Apple platforms.
Epic, of course, had previously promised the same thing, in a legally binding fashion, when they agreed to Apple’s developer account terms and conditions. But agreeing not to break Apple’s guidelines again seems in the spirit of what Apple had been asking for, regarding reinstating Fortnite.
Epic will resubmit Fortnite to the App Store if you adhere to the
plain language of the court order and allow apps to include
buttons and external links that direct customers to other
purchasing mechanisms without onerous terms or impediments to a
good user experience.
Here’s where I think Sweeney garnered the legal “go fuck yourself”. Sweeney is arguing that Apple, which won the lawsuit, should interpret the court’s anti-steering injunction in a way that pleases Epic, which lost the lawsuit. That’s not how things work.
In that case, our remaining dispute will be about competing
stores, and I genuinely believe we could find common ground on the
topic if Apple’s position were based solely on user security and
privacy rather than commercial interests.
Tim Sweeney is high as a kite.
So here’s the thing to keep in mind, and that I think Sweeney purposefully muddled in the way he announced this news: Epic is a conglomerate with multiple subsidiaries, and those subsidiaries have their own Apple Developer Program accounts. The only developer account Apple ever disabled in this dispute was the one held by Epic Games, Inc. — the Fortnite account. It was disabled on 28 August, 2020 and has been disabled ever since.
Accounts that have never been disabled include the accounts for Rocket League (a game whose Mac support Epic discontinued in January 2020, exemplifying Epic’s “wholehearted” support for “Apple platforms”), and separately and importantly, Unreal Engine. It is true that Apple moved to block the Unreal Engine account back in August 2020, but Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ordered Apple not to pending a decision in the case, while allowing the Fortnite account to be blocked. In her ruling this month, however, Gonzalez Rogers stated that Apple would now be within its rights to disable any and all of Epic’s Apple developer accounts for breaching the license agreement. (See p. 179 of the ruling.)
My understanding is that none of those accounts are affected by Apple’s decision not to reinstate the Fortnite developer account. Those accounts have been operational throughout this legal dispute, and I believe will continue to be — by Apple’s choice. ★
Wednesday, 22 September 2021
iPhone 13 and Apple Silicon ★
Ben Bajarin, writing at Creative Strategies:
While I will admit there is a small percentage of Apple customers
who upgrade every year and a percentage more who upgrade every two
years because they are on upgrade plans, the vast majority of
consumers upgrade every 3-4 years. I thought it would be
interesting to look at some basic iPhone benchmarks through the
years and look at how much performance improvement happens every
Incremental improvements every year turn into profound improvements over 3–4 years. It’s like the technology version of compound interest. It adds up.
As I benchmarked the A15 Bionic in different ways and pondered how
Apple spends its transistor budget with each A-series chip cycle,
an interesting shift emerged for iPhone 13. Going back to how
Apple spends their transistor budget on features, not necessarily
performance, for the A15, Apple looks to have had the most GPU
gains YoY since the A9. For the past five years, Apple has had an
average of 19% GPU gains YoY but for the A15 Bionic, Apple has
increased GPU performance by 52%.
This intentional increase in GPU performance over CPU performance
speaks to the more graphically intense features Apple had in mind
for iPhone 13 that is demonstrated in things like macro
photography, macro video, and Cinematic Mode. Developers also now
have a dramatically increased GPU at their disposal to create new
app experiences around and can leverage new augmented reality
techniques, visual computing and AI, and more.
It’s almost enough to make one think that Apple is ready to release high-end professional Macs built around Apple GPUs.
Music Video Shot With iPhone 13 Pro Cinematic Mode: Julia Wolf — ‘Falling in Love’ ★
Went hands on with the iPhone 13 Pro and immediately wanted to
test out the camera and cinematic mode. It’s limited to 1080p
30fps but I was surprised to see how sharp it was AND that it
retained Dolby Vision.
Interesting to see Cinematic mode in the hands of a talented videographer. Easily the best “in the wild” Cinematic mode video I’ve seen. (Explicit lyrics in the song.)
Wired’s 2011 Review of the iPhone 4S ★
From Wired’s review of the iPhone 4S:
Apple never specified what the “S” stands for in iPhone 4S, and it
may as well stand for Siri. Sure, the fifth-generation iPhone’s
superb camera and speedy dual-core processor are classy additions.
But Siri is the reason people should buy this phone. […]
The iPhone 4S looks exactly the same as its predecessor — but who
cares? If it was shaped even slightly differently or came in a new
color, people would still go nuts over the stuff that’s more
important anyway: the insides. And both inside and out, this is a
The late Steve Jobs once called the computer the equivalent of a
bicycle for our minds. I think of the smartphone as the rocket
ship for our minds. With increasingly powerful sensors and
technologies, and access to hundreds of thousands of apps enabling
us to do just about anything, the iPhone keeps soaring to
incredible heights and taking us to places with limitless
potential. I guess that’s what you have to do to create a ding in
I don’t know what happened to the fellow who wrote this review 10 years ago, but The New York Times could sure use a personal tech critic with this sort of enthusiasm and insight into the way that incremental improvements aggregate in just a few years in profound ways.
‘The Most Important iPhone Ever’ ★
Horace Dediu, writing at Asymco:
There are more than 1 billion iPhone users. The total number of
users has been rising steadily. iPhone users make up about 26% of
all smartphone users (3.8 billion is the current estimate). The
share of users in the US is about 60% (or soon will be.) The share
in UK is close to 50%. All these share numbers are higher than
ever. Over 14% of US and 10% of UK survey respondents have
switched to an iPhone in the past two years.
I was not aware that churn was so strongly in the favor of iPhone over the last two years. Pretty good for a phone that Henry Blodget declared “dead in the water” in 2012. The downside to this trend, if it continues, is Apple might start running into being deemed an actual monopolist — by which I mean holding a monopoly share of phones period, not just a monopoly on iPhones. And with its sole OS competitor increasingly showing signs of losing institutional interest in Android, that trend might continue.
Dediu on the iPhone 13 and Apple’s camera improvements over the last few years in general:
We did not ask for rack focus, post-production focus (!), night
mode, macro photography and portrait bokeh. But once we have these
features we begin, ever so slowly, to use them and then we start
demanding them. Conversely it seems that what people mostly ask
for — that is what the critics ask for — are extrapolations of
existing features. The “faster horse” dilemma.
On the surface, the physics of photography are stacked against Apple. Apple’s “cameras” are pancake-thin phones that people rightfully expect to comfortably carry in a jeans pocket. The technically-best photos and videos you can create today are shot using very large, very heavy cameras. But in a very meaningful way, this severe disadvantage works in Apple’s favor. It’s good to be the underdog. It keeps you hungry. And in photography, Apple is very much the underdog — not to any competing company but to the laws of physics. They’ve been making better smartphones than their competition since the day the first iPhone went on sale. That can make a company lazy, and lose focus. The worst thing that ever happened to the Mac was Microsoft Windows going to shit after Windows XP.
But Apple will be chasing “real” cameras in image quality for at least another decade, maybe forever. Settling for nothing less than making the best cameras, period, despite the severe form factor constraints of a “phone”, is the sort of north star that keeps a company focused.
Wednesday, 22 September 2021
I don’t generally lead with benchmarks or pricing, but here’s a thought about the new iPad Mini, which comes equipped with a version of the same A15 chip as the new iPhone 13 and 13 Pro models: For $500, you can buy an iPad that’s more or less as fast, if not faster, at single-threaded CPU performance as an M1 Mac.
That’s a tremendous value. The iPad Mini even has an A15 with an extra (fifth) GPU core, like the iPhone 13 Pro.
Upgrading from 64 to 256 GB of storage costs $150; upgrading to add cellular support costs $150. So a maxed out iPad Mini — 256 GB of storage plus cellular support — costs $800. (There are only two storage options, 64 and 256 GB.) It’d be nice if — like all the new iPhone 13 models — the base storage were 128 GB instead of 64. But, still, the new iPad Mini is a terrific little tablet, and has performance that should keep it very useful for many years to come.
It is, effectively, an iPad Air Mini. Just like the iPad Air, the new Mini sports a round-cornered display, no home button, and Touch ID on the power button. The new no-adjective entry-level iPad still has a square-cornered display, and Touch ID on a traditional home button on the front face. Also like the current iPad Air, the new iPad Mini uses a USB-C port instead of Lightning, and thus uses the superior magnetic second-generation Apple Pencil.
Because the Mini is brand new and the current Air came out last October, the Mini was able to pull ahead in certain respects: A15 instead of A14, 5G support on cellular models, and a better front-facing camera (12 MP vs. 7 MP) — including support for Center Stage, Apple’s recent feature that dynamically adjusts the front-facing camera’s field of view depending on how many people are in the frame and where they are. The rear cameras of the Air and Mini are similarly specced, and to my eyes shoot equivalent quality photos and video, but the new iPad Mini includes True Tone LED flash. The big win to me is the upgraded front-facing camera with Center Stage support. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but video calls have become a big deal over the last two years.
I think most iPad Mini fans would have been delighted if the new model were specced exactly like the current iPad Air, at these same prices. (The iPad Air costs $100 more than the equivalent Mini for the same amount of storage — $600 for 64 GB, $750 for 256 GB — but it only costs $130 to add cellular support to the Air. I suspect the difference in cellular model pricing is a 5G thing.) That the iPad Mini offers several technical advantages over last year’s iPad Air is pure gravy.
I’ve been using the new iPad Mini for a week. As is my tradition for reviews of and first looks at new iPad models, I’m writing this piece on the iPad Mini itself, using a bluetooth keyboard and Magic Trackpad. It’s a nice small-footprint setup. The smaller text on the Mini’s smaller display is a little hard on my aging and somewhat problematic eyes while sitting at hardware keyboard distance, but my biggest annoyance is the lack of Face ID. I’m spoiled by my 2018 iPad Pro — while using a keyboard with an iPad, I expect to both wake it up and unlock it by just pressing the space bar or any other key. Having to reach over and touch the Touch ID button on the iPad is, simply, an inferior experience compared to Face ID. And it’s especially hard for me, right now, after a few years of expecting Face ID to just work with an iPad connected to a keyboard. I felt the same way writing last year’s piece on the iPad Air.
If you don’t already have a Face ID habit using your iPad, however, this should be no big deal at all. Perhaps it’s even unfair for me to complain about, given that I do the vast majority of my writing on an M1 MacBook Pro — which also uses Touch ID, not Face ID. But maybe it is fair to complain about, because on a MacBook the Touch ID button is right on the keyboard — much more convenient to reach — and Macs support unlocking via the proximity of your Apple Watch. I think it’d be very cool if iPadOS supported unlocking via Apple Watch, much like MacOS does.
All that said, if you’re the sort of person who’d like to do a lot of writing on an iPad Mini, you’ll be fine.
One interesting change is that the hardware volume buttons have moved to the same side of the device as the power/Touch ID button. That means the volume buttons are on top when the iPad is in vertical orientation, and on the left side of the device when horizontal. The reason for this is obvious when you think about it, and consider the size of an Apple Pencil. Speaking in vertical (a.k.a. portrait) orientation terms, the Pencil, when attached, doesn’t leave any room for volume buttons on the right side of the device. But the volume buttons can’t go on the left side, because they’d get covered up when you connect a cover (like Apple’s own Smart Folio, which is very nice — the English lavender Smart Folio that Apple provided me with pairs nicely with the purple iPad Mini.) So, the volume buttons moved.
One quibble: there are a few aspects of iPadOS that to me feel optimized only for larger iPads. The home screen Dock, for example, accepts up to 16 apps and folders. In vertical orientation, those icons are really tiny. Almost comically so. Yet in the same orientation, iPadOS will only display 5 apps in the Command-Tab switcher when you have a keyboard connected. I’m more annoyed by having just 5 apps in the Command-Tab switcher than by having super-small icons in my Dock, because I can adjust the number of apps in my Dock (by dragging a few lesser-used ones out) but I can’t adjust the maximum number of apps in the Command-Tab switcher. Here’s a screenshot, but viewing it on another device won’t do justice to the feeling of just how small those Dock icons are, and just how comfortably a few more apps could fit in the switcher. It’s hard to put a finger on it,1 but there are just certain visual elements in iPadOS that feel inconsiderately shrunken on the iPad Mini, in a way that is not true for iOS on an iPhone Mini.
A corresponding anti-quibble: After a fairly long stretch of not using an iPad Mini, I’m reminded how much nicer I find this size for typing with the on-screen keyboard compared to my 11-inch iPad Pro, because I can type with my thumbs, iPhone-style. I have never taken to typing on-screen on an iPad with my fingers, touch-typing-style, and at this point — over a decade into the iPad era — I doubt I ever will. As with the iPhone, I wouldn’t want to write anything long-form using just my thumbs on the on-screen keyboard, but it’s fine for dashing off text messages, tweets, and short emails. And, even better: the iPad Mini still supports splitting the keyboard in two, to make thumb-typing even easier. (It continues to baffle me that the iPad Pros do not support split keyboard mode.) If you like the idea of using an iPad as a sort of big-ass iPhone, the iPad Mini is obviously the iPad for you. ★
Wednesday, 22 September 2021
Who Needs to Shoot Photos in Low Light Anyway? ★
Nilay Patel, on Brian X. Chen’s iPhone 13 review for
Pravda The New York Times:
The NYT does not believe regular people stand to benefit from
better iPhone photos in the dark. I live for this review from
another planet every year.
I thought this was a really strange passage too. Quoting from Chen’s review:
So in summary, the iPhone 13 cameras are slightly better than
those of last year’s iPhones. Even compared with iPhones from
three years ago, the cameras are much better only if you care
about taking nice photos in the dark.
Just how important is night photography? I posed the question to
Jim Wilson, a longtime staff photographer for The New York Times,
as he was taking pictures of the new iPhones for this review. He
said it would be a crucial feature for people like him, but not as
important for casual shooters.
I enjoy how Chen’s review opens with an egalitarian slam that Apple and Samsung’s annual phone updates are “a mirage of tech innovation” and instead are “a celebration of capitalism”, but when it comes to explaining why typical users shouldn’t care about low-light photography, he basically says “because a professional staff photographer at The New York Times says they shouldn’t care”.
Ben Thompson recalled (as I should have, but did not) that this is something of a recurring theme. From Chen’s review of the iPhones 11 and 11 Pro two years ago:
Photos taken with the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro looked crisp and clear,
and their colors were accurate. But after I finished these tests,
I looked back at my archived photos taken with an iPhone X.
Those pictures, especially the ones shot with portrait mode, still
looked impressive. Some of the low-light ones looked crummy in
comparison with the ones taken by the iPhone 11s, but I wouldn’t
recommend that you buy a new phone just to get better night
photos. You could always just use flash.
“You shouldn’t feel the need to buy a new iPhone every year” is a fine sentiment, one that many, if not most, reviewers make each year. Arguing, repeatedly, that your readers should not be concerned at all about taking better photos in low light is bizarre. The single biggest change in consumer photography over the last 3–4 years is the exponential improvement in low light and night mode photography on new mobile phones.
And again, as I mentioned yesterday, Chen’s iPhone 13 review doesn’t even mention battery life, even though almost every other reviewer noted significant improvements across the lineup.
Tuesday, 21 September 2021
Brian X. Chen on the iPhones 13: ‘The Most Incremental Upgrade Ever’ ★
Brian X. Chen’s review of the new iPhones for The New York Times is the least enthusiastic I’ve seen:
This is all to say the annual phone upgrade, which companies like
Apple and Samsung tout with enormous marketing events and ad
campaigns to gin up sales for the holiday shopping season, has
become a mirage of tech innovation. In reality, the upgrades are
now a celebration of
in the form of ruthless incrementalism.
Fair enough, but I found it curious that Chen’s review didn’t contain the word “battery”. The consensus is pretty strong that the two standout features are better cameras and improved battery life.
Joanna Stern: ‘From Mini to Pro Max, It’s All About the Battery and Cameras’ ★
Joanna Stern, reviewing the iPhone 13 lineup for the WSJ:
With videos, gosh, I was really excited about the new Cinematic
mode. Aaaand gosh, was it a let down. The feature — which you
could call “Portrait mode for video” — adds artistic blur
around the object in focus. The coolest thing is that you can
tap to refocus while you shoot (and even do it afterward in the
Except, as you can see in my video, the software struggles to know
where objects begin and end. It’s a lot like the early days of
Portrait Mode, but it’s worse because now the blur moves and
warps. I shot footage where the software lost parts of noses and
fingers, and struggled with items such as a phone or camera. The
Apple spokeswoman said Cinematic mode is a “breakthrough
innovation that will keep getting better over time.”
Stern went all-in on Cinematic mode for the video accompanying her review.
Raymond Wong’s iPhone 13 Pro Review for Input ★
Raymond Wong shot a bunch of great camera comparisons for his Input review. He was annoyed by the same jarring automatic switch between the 1× to 0.5× lens when entering or leaving macro mode that I mentioned in my review:
I welcome greater detail for close-ups and it’s clever that Apple
is using the ultra-wide to augment the 1× wide and 3× telephoto at
short distances, but the transitioning of cameras is disorienting.
Apple makes no mention of this camera switching/augmenting on its
iPhone 13 Pro website. I get that it’s supposed to be one of those
“it just works” features. At least that was Apple’s intention I’m
told, but it just doesn’t.
Here’s a screen recording of the automatic camera switching in
action. In this shot, I was trying to frame these delicious soup
dumplings using the grid. Holding the iPhone 13 Pro still, you can
see the 1× wide switching to another slightly different FOV that’s
using the ultra-wide autofocusing. The viewfinder keeps jittering
as it tries to choose between a regular wide or wide-macro shot. A
regular person wouldn’t look at this and think to themselves, this
is normal. They’d look at the jittering and think something is
broken with their iPhone camera. The framing should never change
from what you compose and never automatically.
Wong’s screen recording illustrates the issue perfectly.
When I first pressed Apple and made them aware of the jarring
camera switching, I was told it’s how the camera system works. On
the eve of this review, Apple changed course and said it’s going
to release a software update to let users disable the camera
switching. According to Apple:
A new setting will be added in a software update this fall to turn
off automatic camera switching when shooting at close distances
for macro photography and video.
Panzarino Takes the iPhone 13 Pro to Disneyland ★
Matthew Panzarino, writing for TechCrunch, regarding Cinematic video mode:
I did some test shooting with my kids walking through crowds and
riding on carousels that was genuinely, shockingly good. It really
does provide a filmic, dreamy quality to the video that I was
previously only able to get with quick and continuous focus
adjustments on an SLR shooting video with a manually focused lens.
That, I think, is the major key to understanding Cinematic Mode.
Despite the marketing, this mode is intended to unlock new
creative possibilities for the vast majority of iPhone users who
have no idea how to set focal distances, bend their knees to
stabilize and crouch-walk-rack-focus their way to these kinds of
tracking shots. It really does open up a big bucket that was just
inaccessible before. And in many cases I think that those willing
to experiment and deal with its near-term foibles will be
rewarded with some great looking shots to add to their iPhone
That sounds right to me.
Dieter Bohn on the iPhone 13 Pro ★
Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge:
Apple’s marketing for the camera system on the 13 Pro is that it’s
the “biggest advancement ever.” I don’t know that I would go that
far, but I also can’t remember the last time I’ve said “whoa, look
at this photo” as many times as I have during this review. […]
Where the Pro 13 camera system shines is in low light. The main
wide-angle sensor has seen a massive upgrade this year. Unlike
Android phones that are chasing big megapixel counts and then
“pixel binning” to achieve low light performance, Apple is
sticking with 12 megapixels, the same resolution it’s used since
2015’s iPhone 6S. The sensor itself is much bigger now and
features 1.9 µm pixels, which are about as big as anything we’ve
seen on a smartphone. And on top of all that, the lens now has an
All of that adds up to a camera that can very quickly take in a
massive amount of light relative to other phones. Combined with
some tuning and improvements to Apple’s computational photography,
the low light performance on the 13 Pro is simply second to none.
I came away super impressed with the low light performance of the 13 Pro, too.
Bohn makes an important point in his corresponding review of the 13 and 13 Mini too: because the camera bumps are all new sizes, cases for the iPhone 13 won’t fit the 13 Pro, nor vice-versa.
More, Smaller Apps ★
Apple Newsroom, back on August 30:
Primephonic is no longer available for new subscribers and will be
taken offline beginning September 7. Apple Music plans to launch a
dedicated classical music app next year combining Primephonic’s
classical user interface that fans have grown to love with more
added features. In the meantime, current Primephonic subscribers
will receive six months of Apple Music for free, providing access
to hundreds of thousands of classical albums, all in Lossless and
high-resolution audio, as well as hundreds of classical albums in
Apple Music’s Spatial Audio, with new albums added regularly.
I’ve had this flagged for a few weeks. What I find interesting is Apple is going to use this acquisition to launch a dedicated classical music app, not to expand the Music app. iTunes, infamously, expanded greatly over the years, and everyone seems to agree that the user experience suffered for it. I wonder if that’s in the back of Apple’s mind here.
Tuesday, 21 September 2021
I wish I had something more clever to say about the new iPhone 13 lineup. But the practical reality is simple and obvious. The two ways that Apple could best improve the day-to-day utility of using an iPhone are improving the camera system and improving battery life. And those are exactly where Apple focused its attention for this year’s new iPhones.
In theory, another practical improvement would be to make phones that are thinner and lighter. But designing phones that are thinner and lighter would be in direct conflict with improving the cameras and battery life. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
All four new iPhones — the 13 Mini, the regular 13, the 13 Pro, and the 13 Pro Max — are the exact same height and width as the corresponding models from last year’s iPhone 12 lineup. But all four of the new iPhones are slightly thicker and heavier. The increase in thickness is very slight — from 7.4 mm to 7.65 mm. The increase in weight varies from around 5 to 7 percent. Not a lot, but you can feel it.
The model with the biggest physical change year-over-year is the 6.1-inch 13 Pro. (Apple provided me with all four for testing, but I’ve spent most of my time over the last six days using the 13 Pro.) Last year, the 12 Pro Max had a much bigger camera module on the back — bigger lenses that protrude more, and a bigger “platform” (“plateau”?) in which the lenses sit. This year, the 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max share the same camera module. You can both see and feel the difference on the 13 Pro compared to last year’s 12 Pro, or to any other previous iPhone in the “regular” size class.
It is comical to look back at the minor controversy surrounding the iPhone 6 back in 2014. That was the first year the iPhone camera had a “bump”, which at the time seemed weird and obtrusive, even if the reason for the bump was obvious: improved optics. The controversy was that Apple’s promotional photography for the iPhone 6 seemed to go out of its way to hide that camera bump — in a bunch of Apple’s profile shots, the back of the iPhone 6 looked perfectly flat. Apple deliberately chose angles and perspectives that did not show the camera bump, and headlines described the camera — that tiny little iPhone 6 camera — as an “embarrassing bulge”.
Fast forward to today, and Apple is using photographs for the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, that, if anything, emphasize the camera system’s size and prominence. Here’s a screenshot from Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro product page:
Nobody can claim Apple is hiding this “bump”. As with the 12 Pro Max last year, the camera systems on the 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max protrude so far that Apple’s cases for the devices have a prominent protective plastic lip around the camera cutout, such that even in a case, the iPhone wobbles when lying on a flat surface. (The cases for the iPhone 13 and 13 Mini have lips around the camera now, too, but they’re much smaller.)
I’ve been arguing for years that iPhones are evolving such that they’re better thought of as cameras than “phones”. Now, there’s no need to argue about it. That’s especially true for the Pro models. What’s “pro” about the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max? The cameras. The “pro” prefix is right there in the name of camera features exclusive to the Pro devices: ProRAW and ProRes. I think it’s fair to say that the iPhone 13 and 13 Mini are phones with very good cameras; the 13 Pro and Pro Max are excellent cameras with phones.
Computational photography is upending the entire camera world. It’s hard to beat the physics of good glass and large sensors, but math is doing pretty good — and gaining fast.
Performance, Efficiency, and ProMotion
During Apple’s keynote last week, the company didn’t mention year-over-year performance numbers for the A15 chip. This led to some speculation that maybe the A15 isn’t much faster than the A14. But when benchmarks started leaking last week after phones got into reviewers’ hands, they showed performance improvements roughly in line with the improvements from the last few years: about 10 percent faster in single-threaded benchmarks, and about 20 percent faster in multi-threaded. That jibes with the numbers I saw using GeekBench 5 and the web-based Speedometer benchmark.
Apple doesn’t like to explain itself, but I think they decided against emphasizing traditional benchmark-type figures (“20 percent faster CPU performance, 40 percent faster machine learning”, etc.) not because the A15 fares poorly in such comparisons, but because numbers like that don’t really tell the story of what the A15 is about. The more impressive year-over-year improvements are in battery life, and I think that’s largely about the efficiency of the A15. It is faster than the A14, by reasonable margins, but what’s more impressive is how much longer battery life is, with only a modest increase in device thickness.
On the iPhone model comparison page, Apple cites separate battery figures for “Video playback” and “Video playback (streamed)”. That’s something almost everyone does with their phones — stream video. A practical, real-world measure of battery life. Here are the year-over-year streaming video improvements for each of the four iPhones 12 and 13:
- iPhone 13 Mini: 13 hours, up from 10 hours last year on the 12 Mini.
- iPhone 13: 15 hours, up from 11 hours last year on the regular 12.
- iPhone 13 Pro: 20 hours, up from 11 hours last year on the 12 Pro.
- iPhone 13 Pro Max: 25 hours, up from 12 hours last year on the 12 Pro Max.
Those are very big improvements for the non-pro iPhone 13 and 13 Mini. But the numbers for the 13 Pro and Pro Max are bananas. The Pro Max more than doubled its battery life for streaming video playback in a year. (!) All four iPhone 13 models are seeing benefits here from the A15 chip. But the Pro models are benefiting from a surprising direction: ProMotion. That’s Apple’s name for adaptive screen refresh rates. With the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, the screen refresh rate ranges from as low as 10 Hz to as high as 120 Hz, and the system just manages it automatically based on what’s on screen. It’s the high refresh rates that garner attention — it’s a feature that makes scrolling look noticeably smoother. It just looks nicer.1 But, of course, updating the display at twice the refresh rate — 120 Hz instead of 60 — obviously consumes more power.
This led to some speculation that the iPhone 13 Pro might get worse battery life than the regular iPhone 13, because ProMotion is exclusive to the 13 Pro and Pro Max. That speculation was based on the fact that high-end Android phones with high refresh rates — 90 or 120 Hz — take noticeable hits to battery life. What makes ProMotion different is that it’s adaptive. The showy-offy aspect of ProMotion is the high refresh rates, but the undeniable practical benefits are the adaptive lower refresh rates. That’s why the streaming video playback numbers for the 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max effectively doubled year-over-year: stream a video at 30 frames per second, and ProMotion will adapt the display refresh rate to 30 Hz. The adaptive nature of ProMotion means that not only does it not hurt battery life, like the less sophisticated high refresh rate features on Android phones, but it actually helps extend battery life for common tasks like watching video or reading text. Yes, the iPhone is late to the high refresh rate game, but as is often the case with Apple, it was worth waiting for.
Cinematic video mode is a lot of fun. It’s a gimmick, yes, but I don’t mean that pejoratively. Gimmicks can be fun. Fun is good. I think people are going to use this feature to make videos that really will look more cinematic. It’s also nice that it’s not a feature exclusive to the Pro models. But like Portrait mode for stills, edge detection around subjects’ hair and eyeglasses can be hit or miss in Cinematic mode. Also, I find it a bit curious that Cinematic mode only shoots in one format: 1080p at 30 FPS. The 1080p limitation I understand — the ML-driven automatic subject detection and dynamically-created “bokeh” depth of field effect are clearly computationally expensive. But why not offer 24 FPS too? For reasons that have never been clear to me, Apple’s Camera app has only ever offered 24 FPS at 4K resolution, not at 1080p or 720p. The camera is certainly capable of it — plenty of third-party camera apps let you shoot 24 FPS video at 1080p and 720p, in addition to 4K. But only the system’s Camera app can shoot in Cinematic mode, a mode whose very name suggests “film style”, which is exactly the term Apple itself uses in the Settings app to describe 4K 24 FPS.
Macro photography on the iPhone 13 Pro models is also a lot of fun. It’s almost like gaining a super power — the ability to see small objects and details far more clearly than with the naked eye. The way that macro mode kicks in automatically, though, can be a little jarring. How it works is, with a 1× field of view in the regular still photo mode, when you bring the camera very close to a subject or surface, the Camera app switches to the 0.5× ultra wide camera. But it’s not an ultra-wide field of view. You get a roughly 1× field of view but a very close focal distance. The jarring part is when the viewfinder switches between cameras — it’s like a jump cut. It’s understandable, and doesn’t dampen the utility or fun of the feature, but it’s a little weird every time you see it happen. It makes it feel not quite as automatic or modeless as Apple intends it to feel. Also, the built-in Magnifier app (Settings → Accessibility → Accessibility Shortcut) doesn’t seem to use the camera’s macro capability. For reading really tiny text — like, say, some of the hidden fine print on U.S. currency — it’s far easier and more effective to use the Camera app than the Magnifier app.
I bought a regular iPhone 12 last year for my personal use, but I’ve already ordered a 13 Pro this year. (Graphite, of course, because I’m boring that way.) The camera is just too good. Maybe the new 3× telephoto lens just feels like a lot of zoom to me, personally, because I’ve spent the last year mostly using an iPhone 12 that doesn’t have a telephoto lens of any sort, but it really feels like a lot of extra zoom compared even to a 2× iPhone camera from previous years.
Polished stainless steel still feels like an odd material for a phone with flat sides. Somehow, to me, polished steel worked better for the round-sided iPhones (X, XS, 11). With the flat-sided iPhones 12 Pro and now 13 Pro, it’s a fingerprint magnet when used without a case. The aluminum iPhones 13 have better hand-feel to my taste, including the buttons.
Colors: my review units are gold (13 Pro), sierra blue (13 Pro Max), midnight (13 Mini), and blue (regular 13). The gold once again is a very C-3PO gold. Sierra blue is very nice, and quite distinctive from any previous iPhone — I can see why Apple is using it a lot in their advertising. It plays as silver-y at times, but very clearly blue at others. Midnight plays as black or very dark gray, until you put it next to something truly black — it’s then apparent that midnight has a small touch of blue. It makes last year’s black iPhone 12 models look a little drab side-by-side. The non-pro iPhone 13 in just plain blue is nice. It’s a rich, vibrant blue. But once again, the screws on the bottom edge are not color matched. The midnight iPhone 13 Mini has nearly-matching black screws, but the blue iPhone 13 has silver screws. I don’t know why that bugs me.
Battery life was outstanding. As usual, I’ve been using the phone extensively, including power-hungry features like Cinematic mode, and I ended each day with plenty of charge left in the tank. ★
Saturday, 18 September 2021
Listen Notes ★
My thanks to Wenbin Fang for sponsoring this week at DF to promote Listen Notes, a podcast search engine. He sponsored DF to share his story of how listening to podcasts has largely replaced Wikipedia as an informal learning resource for him, personally.
Fang has used Listen Notes to help himself listen to about 5,000 podcast episodes in the past 4 years. (!) In his blog post, he explains his own idiosyncratic methods for podcast discovery and consumption.
If you want to jumpstart your own podcast project, try the Listen Notes podcast API, or if you want to find all podcast interviews of a person, just search for their name on listennotes.com. Just a website, really well done.
The Talk Show: ‘It Was More Arial Than Helvetica’ ★
Rene Ritchie returns to the show for a recap of this week’s “California Streaming” Apple Event: the iPhones 13, Apple Watch Series 7, and new iPads. Also, last week’s decision in the Apple v. Epic lawsuit.
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Wednesday, 15 September 2021
Staging-wise, I’m not sure I get Apple’s “let’s make this all about California” strategy. The footage from various scenic locations across the state was beautiful, but I don’t get why it mattered for this particular event. Apple’s always been in California, they’ve always been proud of being from California. My best guess is that it’s as simple as needing a theme of some sort, and “California scenic beauty” was as good as any, for yet another COVID era event that couldn’t be held inside with an audience. Joz presented outside at Apple Park, and Cook was on stage in the Steve Jobs theater, but I get the feeling they wanted to break away from Apple Park as the set dressing for the whole show, too.
To that point, I thought Kaiann Drance’s segment introducing the iPhone 13 and 13 Mini was the most stunning. Standing on stage, alone, at the San Diego Symphony’s outdoor theater, in front of all those empty seats. It was both beautiful and an instant reminder of what we’re all missing.
The iPhones 13
Last year, the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro — the two “regular” sized new iPhones — shared the exact same protective cases. This year, there are different cases for the iPhone 13 and 13 Pro. I think that’s because the three-lens camera module on the back of the iPhone 13 Pro is bigger than the two-lens module on the iPhone 13. The width, height, and depth of the 13 Pro and regular 13 are identical.
Last year, the 12 Pro Max had a better camera system than the 12 Pro. Only the 12 Pro Max had the sensor shift optical image stabilization, and only the 12 Pro Max had a 2.5× (as opposed to 2×) telephoto lens. This year, both Pro models have identical camera systems. (And, like last year, the regular iPhone 13 and 13 Mini share the same camera system as each other.)
The iPhone 13 Pro camera modules are entirely different from the non-Pro 13 and 13 Mini, though. Not just the existence of the new 3× telephoto, but the 1× (wide) and 0.5× (ultra wide) cameras are better on the Pro models. The 1× Pro camera has a maximum aperture of ƒ/1.5; the 1× non-Pro camera is ƒ/1.6. (Lower values for aperture let in more light; photographer lingo is that they’re “faster”.) The 0.5× Pro camera has a fast ƒ/1.8 aperture; the 0.5× non-Pro camera is ƒ/2.4.
Macro photography is a Pro-only feature, I believe because the 13 Pro 0.5× ultra wide camera has autofocus, and the non-Pro 0.5× camera is fixed-focus.
The front-facing camera on all iPhone 13 models appears to be the same, but only the Pro models can shoot in the ProRes format. (Not sure why anyone would want to shoot ProRes with the front-facing camera, though. But I guess why not enable it?)
The AI-driven automatic focus changes in Cinematic Mode video seem too good to be true. Very futuristic feature, if it works as promised.
I really missed having a hands-on experience with the new devices, if only to consider their colors. “Starlight” appears to be silver with a slight hint of gold. I’m tempted to say champagne, but maybe that implies too much gold. “Midnight” isn’t quite neutral dark gray or near-black — it has a hint of blue or indigo. (Blue is seemingly the color of the year. Anecdotally, it seems like a lot of people I know are planning to get the Pro models in Sierra Blue.)
Apple Watch Series 7
A bigger screen, with a brighter always-on display mode, and faster charging are OK year-over-year improvements. But clearly Series 7 is a minor, not major, refresh. That’s fine, and inevitable for a maturing product. You’re not supposed to buy a new $500 Apple Watch every year, and while I know a lot of people who buy a new iPhone each year (including yours truly), I don’t know anyone, even devout fitness enthusiasts, who buys a new Apple Watch annually. Even every other year feels pretty frequent. A Series 5 or Series 4, purchased new, should still be a really great Apple Watch. [Update: I should have known my audience better. A bunch of you buy a new Apple Watch every year. I think we can all admit it’s atypical, though — and that developers who buy a new one every year for testing are an edge case.]
Quinn “Snazzy Labs” Nelson flagged Apple for an unfair comparison, regarding just how much more text the larger Series 7 displays can show at a time. The font was the same size, but the line spacing was quite a bit tighter in the Series 7 screenshot. I would also argue that Apple chose text that line-wrapped inefficiently on the Series 6 display, but the difference in line heights is clearly unfair. Apple doesn’t usually play games like that in comparisons. Yellow card issued.
The entry model $199 Apple Watch remains the now-kinda-long-in-the-tooth Series 3. I was really hoping for the Series 4 to take that spot in the lineup. I know developers of WatchOS apps were too. The Series 3 has an outdated screen size that developers are going to have to support for years to come.
New iPad Mini and 9th-Generation Just-Plain iPad
The iPad Mini has always been on a unique upgrade cycle. It goes years between refreshes, but when Apple does update it, they tend to bring it up to current specs. The new iPad Mini has the same A15 SoC as the iPhones 13 — in fact, it has the 5-core GPU like the iPhone 13 Pro models, not the 4-core GPU like the iPhone 13 and 13 Mini. The previous iPad Mini had the A12.
The iPad Mini is really more like an iPad Air Mini. The new regular “iPad” still has a home button and sharp-cornered display. The Mini has the modern round-cornered display, no home button, and a Touch ID sensor on the power button — just like the current iPad Air. Also like the iPad Air, the new Mini has a USB-C port instead of Lightning. The volume buttons for the Mini are on the top of the device — a first for iPad. I’m guessing that decision was mainly about supporting the magnetic Pencil 2 along the long side of the device where the volume buttons traditionally go for iPads.
TV+ and Fitness+
One thought that occurred to me is that it’s good to see Apple pushing forward on their own original service products. Even putting aside the legal and legislative attention regarding the App Store — big things to put aside, at the moment — I just don’t think it’s healthy for Apple to depend on rent-seeking to grow Services revenue. Getting 30 percent of the revenue from subscriptions to other company’s services is a fine business, financially, but it’s like junk food for any company’s culture. Apple is a great company because they make great original things that people want to pay for. TV+ and Fitness+ are exactly that. Collecting 30 percent of another company’s in-app subscription revenue is not. ★
Wednesday, 15 September 2021
Yours Truly on CNBC This Morning ★
I enjoy that I’m credited in the headline simply as “expert”. I’ll take that.
The Old Last-Minute Hardware Design Switcheroo ★
Killian Bell, writing at Cult of Mac:
Apple Watch Series 7 is not the upgrade most of us expected to see
from Tuesday’s Apple event. The new model doesn’t sport the big
design refresh multiple sources said was coming. It doesn’t even
pack a new chip.
Is this the upgrade Apple wanted to deliver this year? Or is it
a last-minute substitution that Cupertino had to settle on
because the refresh it really wanted to deliver just wasn’t
ready to roll out?
Based on the evidence, we’re going to say it’s the latter.
The only way this could be funnier is if Bell included the theory that perhaps Apple changed the hardware at the last minute because the flat-edge designs leaked.
This is not how hardware works. These designs are set long in advance. In fact, from what I’ve heard, the flat-edge watch designs might be legitimate leaks, but they’re next year’s designs. That’s how far in advance Apple works on hardware — they were already in the advanced stages of designing the 2022 Apple Watches months ago. (Aesthetically, I am not sold on a flat-edge design for the watch. The round edges are iconic and organic.)
You can argue that Series 7 is a marginal upgrade over Series 6, but with an all-new screen (brighter and bigger), all-new crystal (more durable), and 33 percent faster charging, there are upgrades, and none of them could be slapped together.
NSO Group iMessage Zero-Click Exploit Captured in the Wild, Patched by Apple ★
In March 2021, we examined the phone of a Saudi activist who has
chosen to remain anonymous, and determined that they had been
hacked with NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware. During the course of the
analysis we obtained an iTunes backup of the device.
Recent re-analysis of the backup yielded several files with the
“.gif” extension in Library/SMS/Attachments that we determined
were sent to the phone immediately before it was hacked with NSO
Group’s Pegasus spyware.
Because the format of the files matched two types of crashes we
had observed on another phone when it was hacked with Pegasus, we
suspected that the “.gif” files might contain parts of what we are
calling the FORCEDENTRY exploit chain.
Citizen Lab forwarded the artifacts to Apple on Tuesday, September
7. On Monday, September 13, Apple confirmed that the files
included a zero-day exploit against iOS and MacOS. They designated
the FORCEDENTRY exploit CVE-2021-30860, and describe it as
“processing a maliciously crafted PDF may lead to arbitrary code
The files with the “.gif” extension weren’t actually GIF files — they were carefully-crafted malformed PSD and PDF files that triggered image processing bugs. What makes attacks like this particularly dastardly is that the victim apparently doesn’t even see anything. It’s invisible.
Tuesday, 14 September 2021
iPhone 13 Claim Chowder: Satellite Connectivity ★
Sascha Segan, writing for PCMag:
Well, that was bogus.
Both prominent analyst Ming-chi Kuo and extremely reliable Apple
reporter Mark Gurman got seemingly taken in this year by a rumor
that the new iPhone 13 line would talk to satellites,
something that completely didn’t happen during the company’s
iPhone 13 announcement on Tuesday.
In fact, the iPhone 13 doesn’t even feature 5G band n53, the
ground-based 5G band owned by satellite operator Globalstar, which
I had speculated was the grain of truth in the rumors. So I was
wrong, too. […]
We may never know what really caused those rumors to spark,
but I wonder darkly if it has to do with some sort of stock
pump-and-dump situation. Satellite provider Globalstar’s
stock jumped after Kuo’s report, and now it’s crashing
back to earth.
It’s possible that the iPhones 13 do contain a satellite-connectivity-compatible chip, but Apple made no mention of it as a feature. Gurman was circumspect about whether the feature would actually ship, but Kuo seemingly reported it as fact.
Norm Macdonald Dies at 61, After Long Battle With Cancer ★
Jordan Moreau, reporting for Variety:
Norm Macdonald, the deadpan comedian, actor, writer and “Saturday
Night Live” star, has died after a private battle with cancer,
Variety has confirmed. He was 61.
Macdonald’s cancer diagnosis was kept secret from the public, but
he battled it for nine years.
Terrible news. Fuck cancer, man.
It’s hard to pick one favorite Macdonald bit, but his portrayal of Turd Ferguson on Celebrity Jeopardy makes me laugh every damn time I watch it.
Flat-Edged Apple Watch Series 7 Claim Chowder ★
The upcoming Apple Watch Series 7 will feature a flat-edged
design, similar to the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro, and the
addition of a new green case color option, according to Apple
leaker Jon Prosser.
Bonus points to Prosser for commissioning 3D renders of a fictional design.
Mark Gurman, two weeks ago:
While last year’s upgrade centered on the blood-oxygen sensor,
this year’s is all about a new design with a flatter display and
edges, a faster processor and slightly larger screens.
Ming-Chi Kuo, four days before Apple’s event:
The new device will introduce the “most significant change in the
design of the Apple Watch ever.” […] Kuo echoes those claims,
stating that the device will feature “flat-edge and narrow bezel
Today: A big nope on those flat edges. No always-on display mode for any of the new iPhones, either.
Monday, 13 September 2021
New Data From CDC Shows That COVID-19 Remains a Pandemic Only Among the Unvaccinated ★
The vaccinated line in these new charts does show a small bump for getting COVID among the vaccinated, but hospitalization and death are spiking only for the unvaccinated.