Delta Updates and App Thinning Do Not Solve the Apps-Are-Too-Damn-Big Problem 

Matt Birchler:

“App thinning” is not a magic bullet that erases this problem though, as Facebook Messenger, which shows as being 154 MB, still downloaded 99 MB of data for its update. […]

So are giant app sizes a problem? Yes. Do delta updates allow these updates to use less data? Yes. Do delta updates make these large apps a non-issue? Hell no!

Mnml – A Mac Client for Medium 

My thanks to Mnml for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. It’s a native Mac app client for Medium, and can be used for writing, blogging, and notetaking. Based upon the same engine that twice won Desk “Best Apps of the Year” honors, Mnml has all the features you’ll need, wrapped in an attractive, fun – and yes, minimal – interface. Anyone who writes for Medium and prefers native client apps should check it out.

Scott Galloway on Amazon and Whole Foods 

Scott Galloway:

Amazon / Whole Foods will be the fourth-largest grocer in the US, and will likely post growth rates no $10B+ retailer, sans Amazon, has registered. The Seattle firm will apply its operational chops and lower (zero) profit hurdle to the Whole Foods business model and bring prices (way) down. If you wish you could shop at Whole Foods more often, but it’s too expensive, your prayers have been answered. Whole Foods will become the grocery equivalent of a Mercedes for the price of a Toyota. Grocery has stuck their chin out (little innovation), and the entire sector is about to have its jaw shattered.

It’s a great piece. I disagree with him on this though:

Amazon will displace Apple as the top tech hardware innovator, with Alexa cementing itself as the gadget that defines the decade (post iPhone). Grocery / commerce via Alexa will create the utility that Alexa needs to [maintain its lead] over Google and Apple’s home / voice offerings as they try to play catch-up.

Alexa may well maintain its lead in the smart speaker market. It may even grow. Maybe HomePod will be a complete bust. But even if all of that happens, the smartphone will remain the dominant device in people’s lives. Something will eventually replace the phone, but smart speakers aren’t it.

Hardware just isn’t where Amazon is good.

Google Will Stop Reading Your Emails for Gmail Ads 

Mark Bergen, reporting for Bloomberg:

Google is stopping one of the most controversial advertising formats: ads inside Gmail that scan users’ email contents. The decision didn’t come from Google’s ad team, but from its cloud unit, which is angling to sign up more corporate customers.

Alphabet Inc.’s Google Cloud sells a package of office software, called G Suite, that competes with market leader Microsoft Corp. Paying Gmail users never received the email-scanning ads like the free version of the program, but some business customers were confused by the distinction and its privacy implications, said Diane Greene, Google’s senior vice president of cloud. “What we’re going to do is make it unambiguous,” she said.

This is terrific news. Not just because it’s a good policy change in and of itself, but I take it as a sign that Google’s leadership is starting to realize how much damage they’ve done to the company’s reputation by playing fast and loose with their users’ privacy.

Who Americans Spend Their Time With 

Via Jim Coudal, who summarizes this perfectly: “Poetry, in data”.

Kevin Drum’s Thoughtful Critique of Trumpcare 

A succinct rundown of what’s wrong with the Senate Republicans’ “health care” bill.

Nintendo: Switch Shortages Are ‘Definitely Not Intentional’ 

Kyle Orland, reporting for Ars Technica:

Since the days of the NES, people have accused Nintendo of intentionally underproducing hardware in order to drive an artificial feeding frenzy of demand in the marketplace. With the Nintendo Switch remaining nearly impossible to find at retailers nationwide, those same accusations of “false scarcity” have been bubbling up in certain corners.

Nintendo Senior Director of Corporate Communications Charlie Scibetta wants to push back on those accusations. “It’s definitely not intentional in terms of shorting the market,” he told Ars in a recent interview. “We’re making it as fast as we can. We want to get as many units out as we can to support all the software that’s coming out right now… our job really is to get it out as quick as we can, especially for this holiday because we want to have units on shelves to support Super Mario Odyssey.”

How to Build Smaller Apps 

Ben Sandofsky:

Popular social networking apps are over 400 megs. With weekly releases, over one year you’ll download twenty gigs of data.

Since we launched Halide, the most unexpected compliment we’ve heard is about its size. At 11 megs, we’ll push less data in one year than a social network pushes in a single update.

“So you aren’t using Swift,” asked a friend. After all, Swift bundles its standard libraries into your app, bloating its size. Halide is almost entirely Swift. How did we do it? Let’s start with the technical bits.

His conclusion is spot-on:

There really is one weird trick to lose size: focus on your customers.

Bad App Citizens 

Jon Darke:

This got me thinking — as a user who has a lot of apps installed, how much bandwidth does my phone use to keep my apps updated? […]

One Friday I turned off auto-update for apps and let the update queue build up for a week. The results shocked me.

It’s getting to the point where most apps can’t be updated over cellular because they’re all over 100 MB. This is madness.

Update: Many readers have written to argue that the listed sizes in the App Store aren’t what you actually download when updating an app, thanks to app thinning and other features. OK, but even with app thinning and delta updates these apps are still way too big as downloads and take up way too much storage on devices.

More Than 1,000 Uber Employees Ask for Travis Kalanick to Return 

Dan Primack, reporting for Axios:

More than one thousand current Uber employees have signed a letter to the company’s board of directors, asking for the return of deposed CEO Travis Kalanick “in an operational role.” One of its venture capital investors also is chiming in, with a similar message.

Not surprising to me at all — Uber was made in Kalanick’s image.

Kara Swisher: ‘Susan Fowler Proved That One Person Can Make a Difference’ 

Kara Swisher:

It was Lao Tzu who said that “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

In the case of complete and utter change reeling through Uber right now — culminating in the resignation of its once untouchable CEO Travis Kalanick — it turns out that it began with one of the most epic blog posts to be written about what happens when a hot company becomes hostage to its increasingly dysfunctional and toxic behaviors.

It was clear from the moment you read the 3,000-word post by former engineer Susan Fowler about her time at the car-hailing company that nothing was going to be the same. Titled simply, “Reflecting on one very, very strange year at Uber,” the essay deftly and surgically laid out the map that the media and others would use to prove to its out-to-lunch board and waffling investors that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had to go.

The truth and courage are a powerful combination.

Gizmodo Investigation Exposes Websites Collecting Form Data Before You Hit ‘Submit’ 

Great investigative work by Kashmir Hill and Surya Mattu for Gizmodo:

During a recent investigation into how a drug-trial recruitment company called Acurian Health tracks down people who look online for information about their medical conditions, we discovered NaviStone’s code on sites run by Acurian, Quicken Loans, a continuing education center, a clothing store for plus-sized women, and a host of other retailers. Using Javascript, those sites were transmitting information from people as soon as they typed or auto-filled it into an online form. That way, the company would have it even if those people immediately changed their minds and closed the page. […]

We decided to test how the code works by pretending to shop on sites that use it and then browsing away without finalizing the purchase. Three sites — hardware site, gift site, and clothing site — sent us emails about items we’d left in our shopping carts using the email addresses we’d typed onto the site but had not formally submitted. Although Gizmodo was able to see the email address information being sent to Navistone, the company said that it was not responsible for those emails.

They weren’t responsible for sending the emails, but they were responsible for the email addresses being sent to those websites in the first place. Sending form data surreptitiously is morally wrong, and everyone knows it.

This might sound hyperbolic, but I mean it: I think we’d be better off if JavaScript had never been added to web browsers.

Uber’s Biggest Problem: Its Business Model 

Christopher Mims, in his column for The Wall Street Journal:

But even when it steers through that thicket of crises, Uber will have to come to grips with a fundamental vulnerability that is increasingly apparent in the company’s business model. Uber may be great at technology, but unlike the businesses of Google, Facebook, Apple or Amazon, technology hasn’t proven to be a significant barrier to new entrants in ride-sharing. Across the globe, Uber has dozens of competitors, and in many markets they have grabbed the lion’s share of the ride-sharing market.

Even if Uber fixes all of its current problems, it’s increasingly unlikely that it can live up to the inflated expectations that come with the nearly $70 billion valuation that have made it the world’s most valuable startup. There are barbarians at Uber’s gate, and it’s sorely in need of a moat.

This is why they’re pursuing self-driving technology so aggressively. There’s simply no way that Uber is worth $70 billion without some sort of exclusive technical advantage. That’s the interesting flip side to Kalanick’s ouster — I’m not sure who would want the job.

Chris Lattner on His Stint at Tesla 

Chris Lattner has updated his resume with his accomplishments at Tesla. Unsurprisingly, it sounds like he got a lot done in just five months — including, ironically, addressing an engineering talent retention problem.

Inside Travis Kalanick’s Resignation 

Mike Isaac, reporting for The New York Times:

Travis Kalanick’s final hours as Uber’s chief executive played out in a private room in a downtown Chicago hotel on Tuesday.

There, Mr. Kalanick, who was on a trip to interview executive candidates for Uber, was paid a surprise visit. Two venture capitalists — Matt Cohler and Peter Fenton of the Silicon Valley firm Benchmark, which is one of Uber’s biggest shareholders — presented Mr. Kalanick with a list of demands, including his resignation before the end of the day. The letter was from five of Uber’s major investors, including Benchmark and the mutual fund giant Fidelity Investments. […]

By the end of the day, after hours of haggling and arguing, that course was clear: Mr. Kalanick agreed to step down as Uber’s chief executive.

Truly great reporting from Isaac, including the fact that even during his brief “leave of absence”, he wasn’t really absent at all:

In reality, Mr. Kalanick had little intention of staying away from his company. Almost immediately after announcing the leave of absence, he worked the phones to push out Mr. Bonderman for making the sexist comment onstage at an Uber employee meeting. With the two increasingly at odds, Mr. Kalanick sent out a flurry of texts, phone calls and emails to his allies to pressure Mr. Bonderman to step down from Uber’s board. Hours later, Mr. Bonderman did.

Narrative Maps for ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Books 

Sarah Laskow, writing for Atlas Obscura:

The last installment of the original “Choose Your Own Adventure” series came out in 1998, but since 2004, Chooseco, founded by one of the series’ original authors, R.A. Montgomery, has been republishing classic volumes, as well as new riffs on the form of interactive fiction that seemed ubiquitous in the 1980s and ’90s. The new editions also carry an additional feature — maps of the hidden structure of each book.

Just looking at the maps included in the article, it’s interesting how wildly varying in complexity these stories were. See also: Christian Swinehart’s color-coded graphical representations of these books.

(Via Kottke.)

John Markoff’s Interview With Scott Forstall and Members of the Original iPhone Team 

The Computer History Museum (now on YouTube):

Museum Historian John Markoff moderates a discussion with former iPhone team members Hugo Fiennes, Nitin Ganatra and Scott Herz, followed by a conversation with Scott Forstall.

Fascinating stories.

Forstall was great. It’s hard to believe he’s been out of Apple and out of the limelight for 5 years — watching him on stage with Markoff it feels like he never left.

‘Four Things in Those Two Sentences’ 

Kara Swisher on Travis Kalanick:

Uber confirmed the resignation, and the company’s board issued a statement that said, in part: “Travis has always put Uber first. This is a bold decision and a sign of his devotion and love for Uber.” (For those who don’t speak fluent tech director, there are four things in those two sentences that are not true.)

Uber Founder Travis Kalanick Resigns as C.E.O. 

Mike Isaac, reporting for The New York Times:

In the letter, titled “Moving Uber Forward” and obtained by The New York Times, the investors wrote to Mr. Kalanick that he must immediately leave and that the company needed a change in leadership. Mr. Kalanick, 40, consulted with at least one Uber board member, and after long discussions with some of the investors, he agreed to step down. He will remain on Uber’s board of directors.

“I love Uber more than anything in the world and at this difficult moment in my personal life I have accepted the investors request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight,” Mr. Kalanick said in a statement.

From the outside, it seems like this was inevitable. It was only a question of when.

Chris Lattner Out at Tesla 

Chris Lattner:

Turns out that Tesla isn’t a good fit for me after all. I’m interested to hear about interesting roles for a seasoned engineering leader!

That was quick — he was only hired 5 months ago.

The Outline: ‘Inside Apple’s Global War on Leakers’ 

William Turton has quite a scoop for The Outline:

A recording of an internal briefing at Apple earlier this month obtained by The Outline sheds new light on how far the most valuable company in the world will go to prevent leaks about new products. […]

The briefing, which offers a revealing window into the company’s obsession with secrecy, was the first of many Apple is planning to host for employees. In it, Rice and Freedman speak candidly about Apple’s efforts to prevent leaks, discuss how previous leakers got caught, and take questions from the approximately 100 attendees.

There’s some irony in a leaked recording of an internal briefing on stopping leaks.

This is news to me:

However, Rice says, Apple has cracked down on leaks from its factories so successfully that more breaches are now happening on Apple’s campuses in California than its factories abroad. “Last year was the first year that Apple [campuses] leaked more than the supply chain,” Rice tells the room. “More stuff came out of Apple [campuses] last year than all of our supply chain combined.” […]

In the years since Tim Cook pledged to double down on secrecy, Rice’s team has gotten better at safeguarding enclosures. “In 2014 we had 387 enclosures stolen,” he says. “In 2015 we had 57 enclosures stolen, 50 of which were stolen on the night of announce, which was so painful.” In 2016, Rice says the company produced 65 million housings, and only four were stolen. “So it’s about a one in 16 million loss ratio, which is unheard of in the industry.”

There’s a short (15 minute) podcast that accompanies the report, with Turton and The Outline’s Adrianne Jeffries. It’s worth a listen. (It doesn’t seem possible to link directly to a single episode of their podcast, so here’s a direct link for Overcast users.)

The Talk Show: ‘Egg Freckles’ 

New episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, with special guest Serenity Caldwell. We look back at WWDC 2017 — iOS 11, the new iPad Pro models, MacOS 10.13 “High Sierra”, updated Mac hardware and a tease at the upcoming iMac Pro, where Apple might go with VR and AR, San Jose as the venue for the event itself, and more.

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Medium and the Scourge of Persistent Sharing Dickbars

Medium seems to continue to grow in popularity as a publishing platform, and as it does, I’m growing more and more frustrated by their on-screen “engagement” turds. Every Medium site displays an on-screen “sharing” bar that covers the actual content I want to read. This is particularly annoying on the phone, where screen real estate is most precious. Now on iOS they’ve added an “Open in App” button that literally makes the last 1-2 lines of content on screen unreadable. To me these things are as distracting as having someone wave their hand in front of my face while I try to read.

Here’s an annotated screenshot (and threaded rant) I posted to Twitter while trying to read Steven Sinofksy’s WWDC 2017 trip report on my iPad Pro review unit last week.

Safari already has a built-in Sharing button. It has all the options for sharing I need. And as I scroll the page, it disappears so that I can see as much text on screen as possible. Safari is designed to be reader-friendly, as it should be. But it’s trivial to get that Sharing button back when I want it – just tap the bottom of the screen and there it is. Easy.

This is now a very common design pattern for mobile web layouts. Medium is far from alone. It’s getting hard to find a news site that doesn’t put a persistent sharing dickbar down there.

More examples:

TechCrunch’s waste of space deserves special mention, for having a persistent navbar at the top and a persistent ad, in addition to their sharing dickbar.

I’m sure “engagement” does register higher with these sharing dickbars, but I suspect a big part of that is because of accidental taps. And even so, what is more important, readability or “engagement”? Medium wants to be about readability but that’s hard to square with this dickbar, and especially hard to square with the “Open in App” button floating above it.

iOS also has a standard way to prompt users to install the app version of a website — Smart App Banners. And it’s user-dismissible.

For any piece over a page long, I read Medium pieces with Safari’s Reader Mode. Medium is supposed to be a reader-optimized layout by default. It should be one of the sites where you’re never even tempted to switch to Reader Mode.

I’m frustrated by this design pattern everywhere I see it. But I’m especially disappointed by Medium’s adoption of it. I don’t expect better from most websites. I do expect better from Medium.

A website should not fight the browser. Let the browser provide the chrome, and simply provide the content. Web developers know this is right — these dickbars are being rammed down their throats by SEO experts. The SEO folks are the same dopes who came up with the genius strategy of requiring 5-10 megabytes of privacy-intrusive CPU-intensive JavaScript on every page load that slows down websites. Now they come to their teams and say, “Our pages are too slow — we gotta move to AMP so our pages load fast.”

I don’t expect to break through to the SEO shitheads running the asylums at most of these publications, but Medium is supposed to be good. When people click a URL and see that it’s a Medium site, their reaction should be “Oh, good, a Medium site — this will be nice to read.” Right now it’s gotten to the point where when people realize an article is on Medium, they think, “Oh, crap, it’s on Medium.” 

Microsoft Surface Laptop Teardown 

iFixit gave the Surface Laptop a 0 out of 10 on their “Repairability Score”. The lowest anything from Apple has ever gotten is a 1, I believe.

Verdict: The Surface Laptop is not a laptop. It’s a glue-filled monstrosity. There is nothing about it that is upgradable or long-lasting, and it literally can’t be opened without destroying it. (Show us the procedure, Microsoft, we’d love to be wrong.)

iFixit’s point of view on this is logical, and they’re certainly not alone in wishing for the good old days of user-accessible and user-upgradeable components. But it’s silly to argue that the Surface Laptop is “not a laptop” only because it’s a sealed box. It’s like saying the iPhone is not a phone because it doesn’t have a replaceable battery.

Update: Apple’s AirPods got a 0/10 from iFixit. That just goes to show how little correlation there is between iFixit’s concept of repairability and whether a product is good or not. I consider AirPods to be Apple’s best new product in years.

Standard Ebooks 

Standard Ebooks:

Standard Ebooks is a volunteer driven, not-for-profit project that produces lovingly formatted, open source, and free public domain ebooks.

Ebook projects like Project Gutenberg transcribe ebooks and make them available for the widest number of reading devices. Standard Ebooks takes ebooks from sources like Project Gutenberg, formats and typesets them using a carefully designed and professional-grade style guide, lightly modernizes them, fully proofreads and corrects them, and then builds them to take advantage of state-of-the-art ereader and browser technology. […]

Other free ebooks don’t put much effort into professional-quality typography: they use "straight" quotes instead of “curly” quotes, they ignore details like em- and en-dashes, and they look more like early-90’s web pages instead of actual books.

The Standard Ebooks project applies a rigorous and modern typography manual when developing each and every ebook to ensure they meet a professional-grade and consistent typographical standard. Our ebooks look good.

What a fantastic project. Project Gutenberg is an amazing library, but their books are a mess typographically. (Via Daniel Bogan.)

The Size of iPhone’s Top Apps Has Increased by 1,000 Percent in Four Years 

Randy Nelson, writing for the Sensor Tower blog:

According to Sensor Tower’s analysis of App Intelligence, the total space required by the top 10 most installed U.S. iPhone apps has grown from 164 MB in May 2013 to about 1.8 GB last month, an 11× or approximately 1,000 percent increase in just four years. In the following report, we delve deeper into which apps have grown the most.

Apple really needs to do something about this. It’s not just that these apps are too big, but some of them issue software updates every week (or even more frequently). It’s a huge waste of bandwidth, time, and on-device storage space.

Microsoft AI Team Achieves Perfect Score on Atari 2600 Ms. Pac-Man 

Dani Deahl writing for The Verge:

At long last, the perfect score for arcade classic Ms. Pac-Man has been achieved, though not by a human. Maluuba — a deep learning team acquired by Microsoft in January — has created an AI system that’s learned how to reach the game’s maximum point value of 999,900 on Atari 2600, using a unique combination of reinforcement learning with a divide-and-conquer method.

Unlike the notoriously bad 2600 port of Pac-Man, the Ms. Pac-Man port was both fun and true to the spirit of the coin-op.

Why Reach Navigation Should Replace the Navbar in iOS Design 

Brad Ellis:

As devices change, our visual language changes with them. It’s time to move away from the navbar in favor of navigation within thumb-reach. For the purposes of this article, we’ll call that Reach Navigation.

This design trend is clearly already underway, and Ellis does a terrific job explaining why it’s a good idea.

I can think of a few factors that led to the original iPhone having a top-of-the-screen UI for navigation. First, at just 3.5 inches diagonally, the whole screen was reachable. But another factor might be as simple as the fact that “navigation” was always at the top on desktops — window titles and controls have always been at the top on Mac and Windows. The iPhone didn’t use windows, per se, but there was a certain familiarity with having the titles and controls like Back/Close/Done buttons at the top. Something like the iOS 10 bottom-heavy design of Apple Maps is wholly different from a desktop UI design — as it should be.

Ben Thompson on Amazon and Whole Foods 

Great piece by Ben Thompson on Amazon’s intended acquisition of Whole Foods:

As Mackey surely understood, this meant that AmazonFresh was at a cost disadvantage to physical grocers as well: in order to be competitive AmazonFresh needed to stock a lot of perishable items; however, as long as AmazonFresh was not operating at meaningful scale a huge number of those perishable items would spoil. And, given the inherent local nature of groceries, scale needed to be achieved not on a national basis but a city one.

Groceries are a fundamentally different problem that need a fundamentally different solution; what is so brilliant about this deal, though, is that it solves the problem in a fundamentally Amazonian way.

Ikea Details Plans for Furniture Placement App Powered by Apple’s ARKit 

Mitchel Broussard:

At WWDC this year, Apple senior vice president of software engineering Craig Federighi performed a demo of the company’s new augmented reality platform, ARKit, while mentioning popular furniture company IKEA as an upcoming partner in the technology. Similarly, Apple CEO Tim Cook referenced an Ikea AR partnership in a recent interview with Bloomberg Businessweek.

Now, Ikea executive Michael Valdsgaard has spoken about the company’s partnership with Apple and ARKit, describing an all-new augmented reality app that will help customers make “reliable buying decisions” for Ikea’s big ticket items.

Very cool idea — probably the sort of thing that’s going to be common soon. I’m curious how much of a leg up ARKit will give iOS on this front.

Squarespace Domains 

My thanks to Squarespace for sponsoring last week’s DF RSS feed. Squarespace handles everything related to creating, hosting, and maintaining a website, including domain name registration.

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Designing the Worst Volume Sliders Possible 

This is a fun challenge.

John Markoff to Interview Scott Forstall Next Week 

Blockbuster event next week at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View:

How did iPhone come to be? On June 20, four members of the original development team will discuss the secret Apple project, which in the past decade has remade the computer industry, changed the business landscape, and become a tool in the hands of more than a billion people around the world.

Part 1: Original iPhone Engineers Nitin Ganatra, Scott Herz, and Hugo Fiennes in Conversation with John Markoff

Part 2: Original iPhone Software Team Leader Scott Forstall in Conversation with John Markoff

It kills me that I can’t make this. Hopefully there will be video.

Here’s the thing: Forstall was obviously a divisive figure inside Apple. He saw himself as an indispensable man after Steve Jobs died, and it turns out he wasn’t.

But there can be no dispute that Forstall led one of the most successful software projects ever undertaken. It’s a cliche to say that they achieved the impossible, but what Forstall’s team achieved was considered by many — including many of the members of the team — impossible. But they did it, and in the ensuing years they kept making iOS better and better. It’s not just that they managed to ship the original iPhone OS in June 2007, but the entire run up through Forstall’s ouster from the company was simply amazing.

Across the company, it’s clear that Forstall’s style was not popular. But I know many people who worked on his iOS team, and most of them loved working for him, or at the very least appreciated working for him. The thing I’ve heard over and over is that Forstall was incredibly demanding, yes, but if you were on his team and did good work he had your back.

Forstall pretty much hasn’t said a damn thing about Apple since he left the company five years ago. So if he opens up at all to Markoff, this could be fascinating. His team’s story about actually implementing the original iPhone remains largely untold.

Brian Merchant Has Tony Fadell on Tape 

Nilay Patel, announcing a special episode of The Vergecast with The One Device author Brian Merchant:

And, of course, we talk about the quotes from Tony Fadell and Brett Bilbrey in the excerpt we just published, in which Fadell tells a story about Phil Schiller arguing the iPhone should have a hardware keyboard. Schiller has said the story isn’t true, and Fadell has tried to walk it back as well.

“So I wasn’t in the room at Apple 10, 15 years ago when this would have happened,” says Merchant, who has the exchange on tape. “But this is a quote verbatim as Tony Fadell who was in the room told it to me. He told me this quote in such detail and he gave such a vivid account, and I had no reason to believe it was untrue.”

Merchant says the controversy has “blown him away.”

I figured Merchant had Fadell’s interview recorded. The quotes were too extensive not to have been recorded. It’s pretty clear what happened: Fadell told Merchant exactly what he’s quoted as saying, but now that he’s seen how it’s playing out, he wants to walk it back. It’s a little late for that.

Inductive Charging Is Not ‘Wireless’ 

In the wake of the previous item, allow me a brief rant on the word wireless. Merriam-Webster:

having no wire or wires; specifically : operating by means of transmitted electromagnetic waves a wireless remote

I like New Oxford American’s definition even better:

using radio, microwaves, etc. (as opposed to wires or cables) to transmit signals

Wi-Fi is wireless. No one would accept wireless as a description for an internet connection that required the device to be in physical contact with a charger, even if it were magnetic rather than a port you plug a cable into.

So Apple Watch, for example, does not use wireless charging. Apple describes it perfectly as “magnetic charging”. It sounds like this is what might be in store for the next iPhone. That’d be cool — but it wouldn’t be as cool as being able to charge over the air.

If we call inductive charging “wireless” now, what are we going to call it when it really is wireless in a few years?

Wistron CEO Blabs About Waterproofing and ‘Wireless Charging’ for New iPhone 

Debbie Wu, reporting for Nikkei Asian Review from Taipei:

iPhone assembler Wistron, a smaller rival to Hon Hai Precision Industry and Pegatron, on Wednesday confirmed that waterproof and wireless charging will be incorporated into the new 5.5-inch iPhones to be launched later this year.

“Assembly process for the previous generations of [iPhones] have not changed much, though new features like waterproof and wireless charging now require some different testing, and waterproof function will alter the assembly process a bit,” CEO Robert Hwang told reporters after the company’s annual shareholders’ meeting on Wednesday.

“Mr. Hwang?”


“Jeff Williams is on the phone for you.”

“Uh, tell him I’m indisposed.”

Stack Overflow Survey: Developers Who Use Spaces Make More Money Than Those Who Use Tabs 

David Robinson, writing for Stack Overflow:

There were 28,657 survey respondents who provided an answer to tabs versus spaces and who considered themselves a professional developer (as opposed to a student or former programmer). Within this group, 40.7% use tabs and 41.8% use spaces (with 17.5% using both). Of them, 12,426 also provided their salary.

Analyzing the data leads us to an interesting conclusion. Coders who use spaces for indentation make more money than ones who use tabs, even if they have the same amount of experience.

As a devout user of tabs, I find this hard to believe. Jiminy. This is like finding out that people who move their lips while they read make more money.

Peter Bright’s reaction:

Developers who use tabs to indent their code, developers who fight for truth and justice and all that is good in the world, those developers have a median salary of $43,750.

But developers who use spaces to indent their code, developers who side with evil and probably spend all day kicking kittens and punching puppies? Their median salary is $59,140.

Richard Feynman’s ‘Prepare a Freshman Lecture’ Test 

David L. Goodstein, in his book Feynman’s Lost Lecture:

Feynman was a truly great teacher. He prided himself on being able to devise ways to explain even the most profound ideas to beginning students. Once, I said to him, “Dick, explain to me, so that I can understand it, why spin one-half particles obey Fermi-Dirac statistics.” Sizing up his audience perfectly, Feynman said, “I’ll prepare a freshman lecture on it.” But he came back a few days later to say, “I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t reduce it to the freshman level. That means we don’t really understand it.”

I keep thinking about that in the context of Brett Bilbrey’s quote in the excerpt published yesterday from Brian Merchant’s The One Device:

Schiller didn’t have the same technological acumen as many of the other execs. “Phil is not a technology guy,” Brett Bilbrey, the former head of Apple’s Advanced Technology Group, says. “There were days when you had to explain things to him like a grade-school kid.” Jobs liked him, Bilbrey thinks, because he “looked at technology like middle America does, like Grandma and Grandpa did.”

A couple of Apple folks who’ve had meetings with Phil Schiller and other high-level Apple executives (in some cases, many meetings, regarding several products, across many years) contacted me yesterday to say that this is pretty much standard practice at Apple. Engineers are expected to be able to explain a complex technology or product in simple, easily-understood terms not because the executive needs it explained simply to understand it, but as proof that the engineer understands it completely.

Based on what I’m hearing, I now think Bilbrey was done profoundly wrong by Merchant’s handling of his quotes. Take a close look at the above excerpt, and note how the narrative of the paragraph, painting Phil Schiller as a technological rube, is from Merchant, and how he only uses brief snippets of Bilbrey’s own words, with no surrounding context.

Tony Fadell Walks Away From Schiller Story: ‘Not True’ 

Tony Fadell on Twitter:

I respect @pschiller as a colleague and friend. The story about him is not true. Have asked writer to correct the record.

That’s in response to a tweet from Schiller last night, after being asked if he really did push for a hardware keyboard on the iPhone:

Not true. Don’t believe everything you read…

The Verge excerpt can be corrected, obviously, but it’s a little late to correct a book that’s coming out in 6 days.

I’m not sure what Fadell is alleging here. That he was profoundly misquoted by Brian Merchant? Or that he was quoted accurately but that the story he told wasn’t true? Has to be one or the other.

The Dalrymple Report: With Guests John Gruber, Matt Drance, and Lots of Heineken 

Recorded last week at WWDC in Apple’s on-site podcast studio, which was simply superb. I love recording podcasts in person, not over Skype, and I think this turned out great. A really good overview of WWDC 2017.

iPad Pro Review Roundup

Federico Viticci, MacStories, “The 10.5-inch iPad Pro: Future-Proof”:

A good way to think about the iPad’s new display with ProMotion is not the difference between low-res and Retina screens, but the jump from 30fps to 60fps. You see more of every animation. Text is more legible when you scroll and doesn’t judder. It’s hard to explain and it has to be seen and experienced to be fully understood. Every scroll, page transition, and app launch animation on the 10.5″ iPad Pro is absurdly smooth to the point of feeling unrealistic at first — hence the common reaction that something doesn’t quite compute. But as you spend some time with the new iPad and start using it on a daily basis, its display becomes normal and you wish that other Apple displays were the same.

I’m not even a week into my tests with the 10.5″ iPad Pro, and I think scrolling on my first-gen 12.9″ iPad Pro looks choppy now. I’d be surprised if 120Hz displays with ProMotion don’t expand to the iPhone later this year and other Apple computers in the future. The combination of hardware and software really is that good.

Last year when True Tone was introduced with the 9.7-inch iPad Pro, Phil Schiller said something to the effect of “Once you get used to True Tone, you can’t go back.” I optimistically took that as a sign that the iPhone 7 would have True Tone. It did not, and the reason is probably that True Tone requires additional hardware sensors on the front face to pick up the ambient light temperature, and the iPhone has less room for additional sensors. But with ProMotion, I’m really hopeful that it’ll make its way into this year’s new iPhones. ProMotion doesn’t require additional sensors — only a super-fast GPU (which the iPhone will have) and intricate software support in iOS (which work Apple has already done for the iPad Pro).

Anyway, it’s really hard to quote just one bit from Viticci’s review. If you only thoroughly read one review of the new iPad Pro, it should be his. Nobody outside Apple cares as much about iPad as he does.

Matthew Panzarino, TechCrunch, “Apple Pays Off Its Future-of-Computing Promise With iPad Pro”:

After playing with the new iPad Pro 10.5” for a few days, I am convinced that it’s fairly impossible to do a detailed review of it in its current state.

Not because there is some sort of flaw, but because it was clearly designed top to bottom as an empty vessel in which to pour iOS 11.

Every feature, every hardware advancement, every piece of understated technical acrobatics is in the service of making Apple’s next-generation software shine.

Dieter Bohn, The Verge, “iPad Pro 10.5 Review: Overkill”:

I was all set to complain that increasing the size from 9.7 to 10.5 was not a big enough jump to justify requiring people to buy new keyboards and accessories. Then I started typing on the on-screen keyboard and on the new hardware Smart Keyboard. Even though I’m dubious about Apple’s claim that the software keyboard is “full size”, I find the slight size increase makes touch typing much easier. It’s still a little cramped, but it’s much easier to bounce between this and a real keyboard now.

It really does make a difference in typing, and no practical difference at all in terms of holdability.

Bohn again:

To me, if you’re going to spend $650 on a computer, it should almost surely be your main computer. And if you’re going to make the iPad Pro your main computer, you should probably get more than 64GB of storage and you should also probably get a keyboard to go with it (to say nothing of the Apple Pencil). It hits the $1,000 mark very quickly.

I don’t agree with the notion that a $650 computer should be your “main computer” at all. Apple stuff isn’t for the budget-conscious — news at 11.

Brian X. Chen, The New York Times, “New iPad Pro Inches Toward Replacing PC, but Falls Short”:

Five years later, Mr. Jobs’s successor, Timothy D. Cook, took the iPad a step further. Unveiling the iPad Pro, a souped-up tablet that worked with Apple’s keyboard and stylus, he remarked that people would try the product and “conclude they no longer need to use anything else, other than their phones.”

That prediction has not appeared to come true. Many professionals say they use an iPad in addition to a personal computer, and sales of iPads have shrunk quarter after quarter for more than a year, an indication that hordes of people were not trading in their PCs for tablets just yet.

That situation is unlikely to change with Apple’s newest iPad Pro, which will be released this week. […] But after about a week of testing the 10.5-inch iPad Pro, I concluded that Apple’s professional tablet still suffers from some of the same problems when compared with a laptop.

That’s a slanted truncation of Cook’s quote. Cook’s full quote: “Yes, the iPad Pro is a replacement for a notebook or a desktop for many, many people. They will start using it and conclude they no longer need to use anything else, other than their phones.” Chen’s truncation makes it sound like Cook claimed the iPad Pro was a Mac or Windows replacement for everyone. He didn’t. And the fact that the new iPad Pro debuted alongside new MacBooks, MacBook Pros, and even more-megahertz-in-the-box MacBook Airs shows that Apple doesn’t think so either. Update: And I completely forgot to mention the solid updates to the iMacs and the announcement of the iMac Pro.

I prefer a laptop to an iPad Pro” is very different from “A laptop is better than an iPad Pro”. Me, personally, I much prefer working on a MacBook Pro to an iPad Pro. But I can see why others feel the opposite. That’s the whole point of Apple’s strategy of keeping them separate, rather than unifying them Microsoft Surface-style.

iPad’s slowly diminishing sales are a real thing. But I don’t think that can be used as a gauge for whether more and more people are using an iPad as their main computer. And iPad sales are still more than double those of the Mac. There’s no reason to doubt that “many, many people” are concluding they no longer need a Mac or PC.

Andrew Cunningham, Ars Technica, “The 10.5-Inch iPad Pro Is Much More “Pro” Than What It Replaces”:

Of all the computers Apple sells, none of them has screens that do quite as much stuff as the iPad Pros are doing.

That list starts with DCI-P3 color gamut support (new in the 12.9-inch Pro, returning to the smaller one) and an anti-reflective coating, features also present in recent iMacs and MacBook Pros. But the True Tone feature, which detects the color temperature of the ambient light, adjusts the display’s color temperature to match. Most significantly, the iPad’s refresh rate has been bumped up to 120Hz, twice the normal 60Hz. The screens in the iPad Pros are the best screens Apple ships, which is appropriate for a thing that’s just a giant screen by design.

The 10.5-inch Pro has a 2224×1668 screen, up just a little bit from the 2048×1536 in 9.7-inch iPads. The density is identical, so photos and text are exactly the same size they were before; you can just fit a bit more of them on-screen at once.

That’s important to note. There was some clever speculation by Dan Provost a few months ago that the 10.5-inch iPad would have the same pixel dimensions as the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, with a higher pixels-per-inch density. That’s what Apple did with the iPad Mini. The problem with that speculation is that while the math worked out, the size of things on screen would not. Everything would be shrunk by 20 percent. Not everyone’s eyes can handle that. That’s fine for the Mini — which is often used by sharp-eyed children — but not fine for the standard size iPad.

I had been thinking that maybe what Apple would do is what Provost suggested, but offer a choice between standard and zoomed mode like the Plus-sized iPhones do. Nope. I think what they’ve done is better though, because I think a scaled “zoomed” interface would look blurry at just 324 ppi. The iPhone Plus displays have a resolution of 401 ppi.

Harry McCracken, Fast Company, “A Better Window Into The World Of Apps”:

You can suss out a lot about Apple’s priorities from the aspects of a product it leaves alone and the ones it never stops obsessing over.

Consider the iPad. Every generation of Apple’s tablet since the first one in 2010 has had the same stated battery life–“up to 10 hours”–which suggests that the company thinks that shooting for anything in excess of that would be wasted effort.

That 2010 iPad weighed a pound and a half, and felt a bit hefty in the hand. With 2013’s iPad Air, Apple whittled that down to about a pound. And there the mid-sized iPads have stayed, weight-reduction mission accomplished.

However, when it comes to the iPad’s display, Apple has never been satisfied to rest on its technological laurels. 

Post-Nomination, Trump Property Buyers Make Clear Shift to Secretive Shell Companies 

Nick Penzenstadler, Steve Reilly, and John Kelly, reporting for USA Today:

Since President Trump won the Republican nomination, the majority of his companies’ real estate sales are to secretive shell companies that obscure the buyers’ identities, a USA TODAY investigation has found.

Over the last 12 months, about 70% of buyers of Trump properties were limited liability companies — corporate entities that allow people to purchase property without revealing all of the owners’ names. That compares with about 4% of buyers in the two years before.

From 4 percent to 70 percent.

The clear post-nomination shift since last year to more shell-company purchases is unique to sales by Trump’s companies, even in his own towers and neighborhoods. Condos owned by others in the same buildings, and sold during the same time period, were bought by LLCs in no more than 20% of the transactions. In some areas, the share was far less.

David Frum, on Twitter:

Nobody’s calling it money laundering! But if you — purely hypothetically — were money laundering via US real estate, this is how you’d do it.

The Knives Come Out for Phil Schiller in Brian Merchant’s ‘The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone’

The Verge has an exclusive (and lengthy) excerpt from Brian Merchant’s The One Device: The Secret History of the iPhone, which comes out next week. Merchant seemingly has many first-hand sources on the record, including Tony Fadell and perhaps Scott Forstall. (I say “perhaps” because it’s not clear from the excerpt whether Forstall spoke to Merchant, or if Merchant got the Forstall quotes from somewhere else. It seems like there should be a lot more from Forstall in this story if he actually talked to Merchant.)

But Fadell spoke to Merchant extensively, including this shot at Phil Schiller:

The iPod phone was losing support. The executives debated which project to pursue, but Phil Schiller, Apple’s head of marketing, had an answer: Neither. He wanted a keyboard with hard buttons. The BlackBerry was arguably the first hit smartphone. It had an email client and a tiny hard keyboard. After everyone else, including Fadell, started to agree that multitouch was the way forward, Schiller became the lone holdout.

He “just sat there with his sword out every time, going, ‘No, we’ve got to have a hard keyboard. No. Hard keyboard.’ And he wouldn’t listen to reason as all of us were like, ‘No, this works now, Phil.’ And he’d say, ‘You gotta have a hard keyboard!’” Fadell says.

I don’t know if it’s true or not that Schiller was singlehandedly pushing for a Blackberry-style keyboard. But even if true, it only looks foolish in hindsight, especially if this argument took place before the iPhone’s software team had come up with a proof-of-concept software keyboard. Today it’s clear that the iPhone needed a good keyboard, and that a touchscreen keyboard can be a good keyboard. Neither of those things was obvious in 2005. And in the context of this story, it’s clear that at the time of this purported argument, Steve Jobs and Apple weren’t yet sure if the iPhone should be a pocket-sized personal computer or a consumer electronics product that would have no more need for a keyboard (hardware or software) than an iPod did. My guess is that Schiller was insisting that the iPhone needed to be a personal computer, not a mere gadget, and it wasn’t unreasonable to believe a software keyboard wouldn’t be good enough. For chrissakes there were critics who insisted that the iPhone’s software keyboard wasn’t good enough for years after the iPhone actually shipped.

I do know that Schiller’s hard-charging, brusque style and his obvious political acumen have made him a lot of enemies over the years. It sounds like Fadell is one of them.

So I’ll just say this: this story about Phil Schiller pushing for a hardware keyboard comes from one source (so far — if anyone out there can back that up, my window is always open for little birdies), and that one source is the guy who admittedly spent over a year working on iPhone prototypes with a click wheel interface.

Then there’s this:

Schiller didn’t have the same technological acumen as many of the other execs. “Phil is not a technology guy,” Brett Bilbrey, the former head of Apple’s Advanced Technology Group, says. “There were days when you had to explain things to him like a grade-school kid.” Jobs liked him, Bilbrey thinks, because he “looked at technology like middle America does, like Grandma and Grandpa did.”

Hats off to Bilbrey for putting his name on this quote, but having spoken to Schiller both on- and off-the-record many times, the idea that he “looks at technology … like Grandma and Grandpa did” and needs things explained to him “like a grade-school kid” is bullshit. Especially off-the-record, Schiller can drill down on technical details to a surprising degree. I don’t know what Schiller did to piss off Bilbrey, but Bilbrey either has a huge chip on his shoulder or was severely misquoted by Merchant.1

Anyway, I sure wish this book excerpt had come out before my live episode of The Talk Show last week — now I do have one more question I wish I’d gotten to ask Schiller. 

  1. Here’s a story from Yoni Heisler for Network World on Brett Bilbrey’s retirement from Apple in 2014. Bilbrey headed Apple’s Technology Advancement Group. Merchant describes Bilbrey as having led “Apple’s Advanced Technology Group”. It’s a small detail, and the names are clearly similar, but the Advanced Technology Group was Larry Tesler’s R&D division at Apple, from 1986-1997. It was among the numerous divisions and products that Steve Jobs shitcanned after he rejoined the company. ↩︎