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 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.

Brought to you by these fine sponsors:

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Various Single-Paragraph Thoughts and Observations Regarding Yesterday’s ‘California Streaming’ Apple Event for the iPhones 13, Apple Watch Series 7, and New iPads

The Event

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. 

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 

Citizen Lab:

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 execution.”

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.

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 

May 19:

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 designs.”

Today: A big nope on those flat edges. No always-on display mode for any of the new iPhones, either.

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.

NXLog Enterprise Edition 

My thanks to NXLog for sponsoring last week at DF.

NXLog is able to capture logs directly from Apple’s Unified Logging System, can collect Endpoint Security logs natively, and offers powerful log aggregation capabilities. NXLog gives you complete visibility over your MacOS security logging with a native solution. It is by far the most configurable and versatile log collection solution for the Mac.

‘Fear and Loathing in America’ 

You’ll read nothing better — or more prescient — about 9/11 than Hunter S. Thompson’s column for ESPN, written 24 hours after the attack:

The towers are gone now, reduced to bloody rubble, along with all hopes for Peace in Our Time, in the United States or any other country. Make no mistake about it: We are At War now — with somebody — and we will stay At War with that mysterious Enemy for the rest of our lives.

It will be a Religious War, a sort of Christian Jihad, fueled by religious hatred and led by merciless fanatics on both sides. It will be guerrilla warfare on a global scale, with no front lines and no identifiable enemy. Osama bin Laden may be a primitive “figurehead” — or even dead, for all we know — but whoever put those All-American jet planes loaded with All-American fuel into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon did it with chilling precision and accuracy. The second one was a dead-on bullseye. Straight into the middle of the skyscraper.

Nothing — even George Bush’s $350 billion “Star Wars” missile defense system — could have prevented Tuesday’s attack, and it cost next to nothing to pull off. Fewer than 20 unarmed Suicide soldiers from some apparently primitive country somewhere on the other side of the world took out the World Trade Center and half the Pentagon with three quick and costless strikes on one day. The efficiency of it was terrifying.

We are going to punish somebody for this attack, but just who or what will be blown to smithereens for it is hard to say. Maybe Afghanistan, maybe Pakistan or Iraq, or possibly all three at once. Who knows? Not even the Generals in what remains of the Pentagon or the New York papers calling for WAR seem to know who did it or where to look for them.

The good Dr. Thompson’s voice is sorely missed today.

The Bizarre Decline of Common Sense in COVID Reporting at The New York Times 

Apoorva Mandavilli, reporting for The New York Times back on August 18:

Together, the new studies indicate overall that vaccines have an effectiveness of roughly 55 percent against all infections, 80 percent against symptomatic infection, and 90 percent or higher against hospitalization, noted Ellie Murray, an epidemiologist at Boston University.

“Those numbers are actually very good,” Dr. Murray said. “The only group that these data would suggest boosters for, to me, is the immunocompromised.” […]

Dr. Murray said a booster shot would undoubtedly boost immunity in an individual, but the added benefit may be minimal — and obtained just as easily by wearing a mask, or avoiding indoor dining and crowded bars.

This is like saying we don’t need air bags in addition to seat belts, because the equivalent increase in safety during car crashes could be “obtained just as easily” by limiting cars to a maximum speed of 15 miles per hour. It’s not factually incorrect, but it defies common sense. It’s the difference between intelligence and wisdom. Wearing masks sucks. People want to eat indoors and go to crowded bars. People want to drive faster than 15 miles per hour.

The Times misses Donald McNeil’s reporting dearly. The above nonsense isn’t going to earn them a Pulitzer like McNeil’s excellent reporting did last year. Meanwhile, writing on his own, rather than telling people to mask indefinitely and stay home, he’s got it right:

Nonetheless, data from Israel suggests that mRNA vaccines start waning after six months. Israel is already offering booster shots to everyone over 60. We must do the same. (And ultimately not just to seniors — early hints suggest that the passage of time lowers everyone’s protection.)

We need to get over the current “pretty please?” phase of this fight. Vaccination mandates change everything. Think how different our lives would be if smallpox vaccine was never invented and, every 20 years or so, one third of our children died. That was life before vaccines.

In this country, 99 percent of Covid deaths are now among the unvaccinated. Data doesn’t get more convincing than that.

Death has a false-positive rate of zero.

Unvaccinated People Are 5× More Likely to Catch Delta Variant of COVID, 10× More Likely to be Hospitalized, 11× More Likely to Die 

Beth Mole, reporting for Ars Technica:

COVID-19 vaccines are largely holding up against the hyper-transmissible delta coronavirus variant, particularly when it comes to preventing severe disease and death, according to three studies published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. […]

In terms of infections, fully vaccinated people were about 11 times less likely to get an infection in the pre-delta period, compared with the unvaccinated (with a 95 percent confidence interval of 7.8 to 15.8). That ratio dropped to 4.6 less likely in the post-delta period (with a 95 percent confidence interval of 2.5 to 8.5).

For hospitalizations prior to delta, fully vaccinated people were 13 times less likely to wind up in the hospital than the unvaccinated (confidence interval of 11.3 to 15.6). After delta, that ratio dropped slightly to 10 times less likely (confidence interval of 8.1 to 13.3). The fully vaccinated were 16.6 times less likely to die of COVID-19 prior to delta (confidence interval of 13.5 to 20.4) and 11.3 times less likely to die after delta (confidence interval of 9.1 to 13.9).

Donald McNeil — the award-winning science reporter formerly of The New York Times — writing a month ago:

Confusion about mask rules is now so great that enforcement anywhere but on airplanes will be impossible. Requiring weekly tests as a substitute for vaccination is doomed to fail because the Delta variant can turn someone from healthy to superspreader in less than four days.

The key to saving lives is vaccine. The key to reopening offices and factories is vaccine. The key to reopening schools is vaccine. The key to keeping bars and restaurants open in cold weather is vaccine. The key to travel and shopping is vaccine. Vaccine in everybody.

Judgment in Epic Games, Inc. v. Apple Inc. 

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled today on the Epic v. Apple case. It seems pretty clear to me that Apple got a huge victory, and Epic was served an even huger loss. But read for yourself. There are three documents:

  • A one-page judgment, finding for Epic only on the issue of Apple’s anti-steering provision in the App Store Guidelines, and for Apple on all other counts. The judgment also says Epic owes Apple 30 percent of the $12 million Fortnite for iOS garnered while they were using their own in-app payment processing between August and October 2020, and that Epic and Apple must both pay their own legal fees.

  • A one-page injunction against the aforementioned anti-steering guideline, the meat of which is this:

    1. Apple Inc. and its officers, agents, servants, employees, and any person in active concert or participation with them (“Apple”), are hereby permanently restrained and enjoined from prohibiting developers from (i) including in their apps and their metadata buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms, in addition to In-App Purchasing and (ii) communicating with customers through points of contact obtained voluntarily from customers through account registration within the app.
  • A 185-page ruling, containing all the findings of fact, etc.

Microsoft Will Require Vaccines for ‘All Employees, Vendors, and Any Guests Entering Microsoft Buildings’ 

Paul Roberts, reporting for The Seattle Times:

In a sign of growing momentum for vaccine mandates, Microsoft has reversed course and will now require employees to be fully vaccinated to enter the company’s U.S. offices and other worksites, starting next month.

The Redmond-based tech giant told employees Tuesday it will “require proof of vaccination for all employees, vendors, and any guests entering Microsoft buildings in the U.S.”

The company also said it will have a process to accommodate employees “who have a medical condition or other protected reason, such as religion, which prevent them from getting vaccinated.”

Accommodations for medical conditions that preclude being vaccinated are common sense. But fuck these “religious” exemptions. If your “religion” forbids you from being vaccinated, that’s not a religion, that’s a cult.

So where’s Apple on this? Why isn’t Apple requiring proof of vaccination for employees, including for retail employees and customers? Why reserve courageous decisions only for removing headphone jacks?

Biden Issues Sweeping New Vaccine Mandates for 100 Million Americans 

Zeke Miller, reporting for the Associated Press:

In his most forceful pandemic actions and words, President Joe Biden on Thursday announced sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant.

Speaking at the White House, Biden sharply criticized the roughly 80 million Americans who are not yet vaccinated, despite months of availability and incentives.

“We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” he said, all but biting off his words. The unvaccinated minority “can cause a lot of damage, and they are.”

More like this, please. Mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for everything. For getting on a flight, for going to school, for eating in a restaurant, for keeping your job. Yes, mandating anything is an extraordinary use of authority, but this pandemic is clearly the most extraordinary crisis most of us have ever lived through. It’s exactly why the federal government has the far more extraordinary power to draft men into the armed services and send them to war: for the greater good.

L.A. School District Will Mandate Vaccines for Students 

Dana Goldstein, reporting for The New York Times:

Los Angeles is the first major school district in the United States to mandate coronavirus vaccines for students 12 and older who are attending class in person.

With the Delta variant ripping across the country, the district’s Board of Education voted, 6-0, to pass the measure on Thursday afternoon. The Los Angeles Unified School District is the second largest in the nation, and the mandate would eventually apply to more than 460,000 students, including some enrolled at independent charter schools located in district buildings.

More like this, please.

Bloomberg Reports That Kevin Lynch — Who, It Turns Out, Is Not a Bozo but Was Just Being a Solid Team Player for Adobe Back When He Was Staunchly Defending Flash in the Face of the Obvious Fact That Flash Was Crap Technology Holding Back the Entire Web — Is Taking Over All of Project Titan 

Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:*

Lynch, an Adobe Inc. veteran who joined Apple in 2013 to run the software group for the company’s smartwatch and health efforts, replaced Doug Field as the manager in charge of the car work, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The executive first started working on the project earlier this year when he took over teams handling the underlying software. Now he is overseeing the whole group, which also includes hardware engineering and work on self-driving car sensors, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the move isn’t public.

I think it’s fair to say that Lynch is second only to Craig Federighi software-wise at Apple, and the two initiatives he’s led in the eight years he’s been at Apple — WatchOS and Health — have been huge successes. Apple Watch is a hit product, WatchOS has gotten steadily better every single year, and a large part of what makes Apple Watch so popular — utterly dominant in a still-growing category — is its integration with Health.

I take this not just as a sign that Lynch is a star at Apple, but that Lynch sees a light at the end of the Project Titan tunnel — something that might actually ship, my jokes be damned. It’s also a sign that WatchOS has largely matured. No platform is ever done until it’s dead, so I’m not saying WatchOS won’t continue iterating year-over-year, but the “shaping and steering a new platform from launch through maturity” period is over.

It feels, however, like Project Titan is somehow cursed. Smart people at Apple believe it’s solvable with the right approach, but the project keeps “pivoting” every few years, and that takes a toll on confidence and stamina. The thrill of shipping is the reward for years of hard work, and to date no one who’s devoted serious effort to Titan has gotten even a hint of that reward.

* Bloomberg, of course, remains the outfit that shit its journalistic pants with The Big Hack — a blockbuster report that no one, including Bloomberg, has ever produced a single shred of evidence to back up — yet not only never retracted it but in fact still “stands behind” it even though it’s rather clear they hope everyone just forgets about it. So take anything they publish with a Big Hack-sized grain of salt, even though Gurman’s reporting on the Apple beat has been nonpareil of late.

Why iPhone Names Have Numbers and Most Other Apple Product Names Don’t

I conducted a poll on Twitter this week asking what people think the new iPhones presumably being introduced next week will be named. With over 4,600 votes, the results were:

  • iPhone 13: 70%
  • iPhone 12S: 12%
  • iPhone (no more numbers): 15%
  • Other: 3%

I probably asked a few days too late — there was a credible leak purporting to show the packages for “iPhone 13 Pro Max” silicone cases from Apple over the weekend.

What intrigued me were the number of folks responding on Twitter who said that while they voted for “iPhone 13” as what they would be named, they wish that Apple would drop the numbers and just go with iPhone, iPhone Mini, iPhone Pro, and iPhone Pro Max, with implicit model years to tell them apart from new models in subsequent years. That’s basically how Apple names its other products — with the notable exception of Apple Watch (see below).

But just plain “iPhone” wouldn’t work for iPhones, because iPhones are different. When Apple introduces a new iPad Pro, it replaces the previous iPad Pro. You can’t go into an Apple Store and buy a new 2018 iPad Pro. But you can buy a new iPhone XR from Apple today — a model that was introduced in 2018. (I’d wait until next Tuesday before doing that.) Apple Watch is the only other product that’s sold like iPhones, with previous “series” sticking around for years at lower prices.1

Apple wants people who are buying new iPhones that were first introduced 2–3 years ago to feel like they’re getting a new iPhone. They should, because they are — they’re great devices at lower prices, and will be supported for years to come. But if the iPhone XR were named “iPhone (2018)”, it’d feel old.

I get it: it seems odd that in 10 years we might be awaiting the introduction of the iPhone 23 lineup, but at the moment, I don’t see this changing. The NFL just keeps counting Super Bowls — at least Apple only used Roman numerals for the X and XS/XR years. 

  1. The Apple Watch numbering scheme is simple: new year, new series, incremented by one. The iPhone numbering scheme is not simple. There was no iPhone 2 — the second iPhone was named iPhone 3G. Thanks to the 3GS, the iPhone 4 was in fact the fourth model year. But then came the other “S” years: 4S, 5S, 6S, XS. And Apple skipped “iPhone 9” entirely. If Apple had stuck to a numbering scheme as simple as Apple Watch’s, next week’s new iPhones would be the iPhones 15. ↩︎

Philadelphia’s Plastic Bags Ban 

From the city’s website:

Philadelphians use almost 1 billion plastic bags each year, which litter our streets, waterways, and commercial corridors. Plastic bags account for over 10,000 hours of lost staff time and pose a danger to workers at recycling facilities because they get caught in the equipment. Banning plastic bags will make our city cleaner, reduce waste and save money.

I’ve been reading Millions, Billions, Zillions by Brian Kernighan (who is apparently a computer scientist of some renown). It’s a great book ($11 in hardcover from Amazon; link to indie booksellers), and Kernighan’s writing style is as buttery smooth as ever. One of the things he does is encourage back-of-the-envelope math on numbers like the above, when you encounter them. Does it make sense that Philadelphians use 1 billion plastic bags per year?

Philly has about 1.6 million residents. 1 billion divided by 1.6 million is 625 plastic bags per person per year, about 12 bags per person per week, or 1.7 bags per person per day. When I consider how often stores double-bag anything vaguely heavy, that seems plausible. (There’s also the fact that Philly gets many tourists, and in normal times there are many non-residents who commute into the city daily for work. Feel free to bump 1.6 million to a higher number, but for ballpark “does this figure make sense” purposes, I think the Census figure is fine.)

10,000 annual hours of lost staff time is high, but seems plausible too: That’s about 192 hours per week, or about 5 full-time employees.

Anker’s $20 Nano Pro 20W Charger 

Speaking of stuff you can buy from Amazon — with affiliate links that could make me rich — I highly recommend Anker’s small 20-watt Nano chargers. Basically, they’re the size of Apple’s classic 5-watt chargers, and thus fit almost anywhere, but they charge at the same speed as Apple’s much-larger new 20-watt chargers. These new models from Anker come in four colors: white, black, lavender, and sissy blue. If you or anyone you know is getting a new iPhone soon, I would strongly recommend one of Anker’s chargers over Apple’s — same speed, same price, much smaller, and a few color options to top it off.

Another Anker charger I’ve been meaning to recommend is the Atom PowerPort III Slim. It’s a 30-watt charger currently on sale for $19, and what makes it different is that it’s, well, very slim (including folding prongs). This charger will fit behind furniture that’s pushed up against the wall. It’s small and lightweight too — here’s mine next to a matchbox for comparison.

‘Every Streaming Company Not Named Apple Receives a Lousy Grade on Privacy’ 

Karl Bode, writing for TechDirt:

While streaming providers and hardware companies see significantly higher consumer satisfaction rates than traditional cable TV, their privacy practices still leave something to be desired. That’s according to a new breakdown of streaming service privacy policies by Common Sense Media, which doled out terrible grades to pretty much everybody not named Apple:

Our privacy evaluations of the top 10 streaming apps indicate that all streaming apps (except Apple TV+) have privacy practices that put consumers’ privacy at considerable risk including selling data, sending third‐party marketing communications, displaying targeted advertisements, tracking users across other sites and services, and creating advertising profiles for data brokers.

This privacy report focuses on streaming services, not hardware platforms, but related to the previous post re: Amazon’s new Fire TV Omni Series, it’s also the case that Apple TV is the only platform that makes privacy a priority and doesn’t put ads on your screen.

Amazon Introduces Omni Series Fire TV Sets 

New line of LED TV sets from Amazon, with Fire TV and Alexa built-in. The high-end 65- and 75-inch models ($830 / $1,100) come with Dolby Vision support; the lesser models (43-inch for $410, 50-inch for $510, 55-inch for $560) do not. All models are LED, not OLED.

‘Mr. November’ 

Mike Lupica, writing for

Jeter was a part of the last Yankee dynasty. His Yankees won four World Series in five years and nearly made it five in six. In the middle of all the winning in the late ‘90s for the Yankees of Joe Torre — the man Jeter calls “Mister Torre” — I was with Jeter one day at his locker at the old Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees were getting ready for another October, and I said to him, “You know, this isn’t going to last forever.”

He looked up at me and quietly said, “Why not?”

This was before he made The Flip to get Jeremy Giambi at the plate in Oakland to save a Yankees season, and before he went 5-for-5 on the day he got to 3,000 hits with a home run off David Price. But Jeter was already the player that kids wanted to be. There were other great Yankees at that time. Still: No. 2 was the one.

And the moment I will always remember best for Jeter, as big and important and memorable as any he ever had and the old Stadium ever had, came at the end of Game 4 of the 2001 World Series, in the middle of three extraordinary nights in the shadow of 9/11, three nights when the Yankees made a wounded city cheer.

Worth it just for the video clip with Michael Kay’s call: “See ya! See ya! See ya!” Gets you right there.

Derek Jeter, Hall of Fame Shortstop 

Tyler Kepner, writing for The New York Times, on Derek Jeter’s entry to the Baseball Hall of Fame today:

The next season would end much differently for Jeter: at shortstop in Yankee Stadium, celebrating his team’s first World Series title in 18 years. It would ingrain in Jeter a demanding but matter-of-fact standard, that a season is only successful if it ends in a championship.

Jeter’s fans loved him for that mentality, and more. […]

He also learned to never make excuses, a lesson embedded in the Yankee experience. With each passing championship, Jeter said, Yogi Berra would remind him that he had won a record 10 as a player. It is tougher to win now, Jeter would protest, citing modern playoff rounds, but Berra would cut him off.

“His response was: ‘You can come over to my house and count the rings anytime you want,’” Jeter said. “So I always felt as though you’re trying to chase something.”

Billy Crystal: “Jeter, simply put, was a winner.”

Ford Hires Doug Field, Who Had Been Leading Project Titan at Apple 

Michael Wayland, reporting for CNBC:

Ford Motor said Tuesday it hired former Tesla and Apple executive Doug Field to lead its emerging technology efforts, a key focus for the automaker under its new Ford+ turnaround plan.

Field — who led development of Tesla’s Model 3 — most recently served as vice president of special projects at Apple, which reportedly included the tech giant’s Titan car project.

The hire is a major addition for Ford and a big hit to Apple and its secret car project, which the company has yet to confirm exists.

Maybe it’s as simple as Field wanting to work on something that’s actually going to ship?

Breakthrough COVID Cases for the Vaccinated Remain Very Rare 

David Leonhardt, writing for The New York Times:

The estimates here are based on statistics from three places that have reported detailed data on Covid infections by vaccination status: Utah; Virginia; and King County, which includes Seattle, in Washington state. All three are consistent with the idea that about one in 5,000 vaccinated Americans have tested positive for Covid each day in recent weeks.

The chances are surely higher in the places with the worst Covid outbreaks, like the Southeast. And in places with many fewer cases — like the Northeast, as well as the Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco areas — the chances are lower, probably less than 1 in 10,000. That’s what the Seattle data shows, for example. (These numbers don’t include undiagnosed cases, which are often so mild that people do not notice them and do not pass the virus to anyone else.)

Here’s one way to think about a one-in-10,000 daily chance: It would take more than three months for the combined risk to reach just 1 percent.

Breakthrough cases for the vaccinated are far more rare than many people have been led to believe through clickbait headlines.

Pymnts Survey: Only 6 Percent of People With iPhones Use Apple Pay In-Store 

Karen Webster, writing for the oddly-named Pymnts:

Seven years post-launch, new PYMNTS data shows that 93.9% of consumers with Apple Pay activated on their iPhones do not use it in-store to pay for purchases.

That means only 6.1% do.

That finding is based on PYMNTS’ national study of 3,671 U.S. consumers conducted between Aug. 3-10, 2021. After seven years, Apple Pay’s adoption and usage isn’t much larger than it was 2015 (5.1%), a year after its launch, and is the same as it was in 2019, the last full year before the pandemic.

It doesn’t really make sense to me that adoption isn’t much higher than it was in 2015, and if these survey results are accurate, I find them surprisingly low. I’d have guessed somewhere in the 15–20 percent range. If it’s true adoption is this low, I think one factor could be first impressions — my wife got turned off by Apple Pay in the earlier years because so many retail terminals that supposedly accepted it were so finicky. Using an old-fashioned credit card was more reliable. Also, habits. But I use Apple Pay today whenever I can, and I find it more reliable than tap-and-pay with a physical card.

Nick Heer, writing at Pixel Envy:

This survey shows an approximately flat use rate from 2019 through 2021, down slightly from 2018. Webster writes that the pandemic ought to have “changed the trajectory of Apple Pay” as “contactless and touchless have become the consumer’s checkout mantra”. But anyone with a Face ID-equipped iPhone can tell you that wearing a mask requires you to authenticate by using your passcode, so it has been far easier for the past eighteen months to simply tap a card. That is probably true generally, as well; Apple Pay may have better privacy and security, but it is no easier to use than a card that supports tap to pay, even without the added complication of pandemic precautions.

Apple Pay with Apple Watch works well while wearing a face mask, but using your iPhone sucks.

‘California Streaming’ — Apple Event Next Tuesday 

A virtual event — which is not the least bit surprising but still a bit of a bummer. No guess from me as to what, if anything, the invitation means. Here’s Greg Joswiak’s tweet, which has a brief video teaser.

Update: And there’s another nifty AR Easter egg on Apple’s main events page, viewable from an iPhone.

Hurricane Ida Flooding in Philly 

A bunch of readers have reached out to ask if we made it through Ida OK, with all the flooding in Philly. We were very lucky. Some neighborhoods very close to us, not so much. I was out all afternoon Thursday, snapping pictures, and here are some showing the damage.

Morning Brew 

My thanks to Morning Brew for sponsoring last week at DF. There’s a reason over 3 million people start their day with Morning Brew — it’s the daily email that delivers the latest news from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. Unlike traditional news, Morning Brew knows how to keep you informed and entertained. Check it out — I’ve been subscribed for two years and enjoy it every day.

‘There Goes a Truly Great Drummer’ 

Nick Cave on Charlie Watts. Love this story.

Wirecutter’s ‘Best’ Drip Coffee Makers Pooh-Poohs the Two Best Drip Coffee Makers 

Here’s a perfect example of what I was talking about in the previous item, about The Wirecutter institutionally fetishizing price over quality. And within “quality” I include design aesthetics, which, let’s face it, almost always goes hand-in-hand with price.

From their current list of “best” drip coffee makers, which is topped by OXO’s $200 Brew 9-Cup:

You can find a number of expensive, stylish coffee makers made in small quantities for enthusiast audiences. Clive Coffee’s Ratio Eight and the Chemex Ottomatic are two prominent examples. They’re all made for connoisseurs who are willing to spend a lot on a high-end machine. The main draw of these coffee makers is that they brew similarly to manually making a batch of pour-over — pre-infusing the grounds and evenly pouring the hot water. For the price, however, it’s hard to see any concrete benefits to these machines, and they’re also less widely available than our top picks.

The Ratio Eight costs $495, and the Chemex Ottomatic $350. They don’t just brew coffee similarly to pour-over, they brew pour-over. The difference is only that they’re automatic. And pour-over coffee tastes better than the stuff regular drip coffee makers brew.

The “concrete benefits” to these machines is that they make better-tasting coffee and they look better on your kitchen counter. Yes, $350/495 is significantly more than $200, but many coffee lovers gladly spend $5 a cup every day for pour-over coffee from a good coffee shop. Many people pay close to that for drip coffee from not-so-good coffee shops.

I was recently at a friend’s house who owns the Ratio Eight and it’s a splendid device. Me, I’ll stick with my manual pour-over method, if only for the ritual, but if I were going to buy a machine to automate it, I don’t think I’d consider anything other than a Ratio. Also, Ratio makes the best thermal carafe I’ve ever seen — I ordered one of those. I expect to use it for a decade, if not longer.

And what’s the deal with using “less widely available” as an excuse not to recommend them? A list of “The Best Coffee Makers You Can Definitely Get Delivered This Week” or “The Best Coffee Makers You Can Find on the Shelf If You’re Reading This Review While Standing in the Coffee Maker Aisle at Target” is very different from a list of “The Best Coffee Makers”. A coffee maker is the sort of item I’d research the heck out of, and get on a waitlist to buy, so that I could get one that would most delight me every morning for years to come.

Wirecutter’s description of these two coffee makers is criminal. But at least they did mention them. In many other categories, superior but more-expensive products don’t even get a mention from Wirecutter. I think there’s a huge market opportunity here for a quality-and-design-first rival.

Wirecutter Goes Behind The New York Times’s Paywall 

The New York Times:

The New York Times Company announced today that Wirecutter, its product recommendation service, will institute a metered paywall, asking its frequent users to subscribe for unlimited access to its research and recommendations. New York Times All Access digital and home delivery subscribers will continue to receive unlimited access to Wirecutter’s 1,200+ product reviews, deals coverage and other guides to help them shop confidently online with their existing subscription. A standalone subscription to Wirecutter is available for $5 every four weeks or $40 annually.

This makes sense, and in my opinion, the Times’s paywall rules are among the best in the industry, in terms of offering a generous number of free reads to non-subscribers. But it’s one less “free for everyone to read” high-quality site.

(I have always enjoyed Wirecutter, going back to when they debuted (and had a leading The), but I wish they had a rival that focused less on price. Wirecutter recommendations are very often skewed to the best low-priced product, not the best product in a category, period. I want domain experts to tell me the best products — I can make up my own mind on how much I want to spend.)

Twitter Super Follows Are Implemented as Discrete SKU’s to Work With Apple’s IAP System 

Jane Manchun Wong:

Each Super Follow is an In-App Purchase on the App Store, but because there are too many IAPs for the Twitter app, the App Store only shows 10 instead of the full list.

Her tweet includes this screenshot. The gist is, each Twitter user offering Super Follows gets its own distinct IAP. If there are 1,000 users offering Super Follows, there are 1,000 discrete IAPs in the App Store. If there are 10,000 users offering them, 10,000 IAPs. If there are 100,000, our heads explode.

This is incredible. Ostensibly, Twitter is doing what Apple wants them to do. Right now Super Follows payments are even exclusive to iOS. (Once you pay on iOS, you can see Super Follow content on Twitter’s Android and web clients, too, but the only way to pay is on iOS through IAP.) But Apple’s IAP system is so brittle that Twitter has to make a discrete SKU for each and every Super Follow user, and pay Apple 30 percent of the price for the privilege. (Twitter, per its published terms, takes just 3 percent of the first $50,000 in lifetime earnings, then 20 percent after that.) Also, because Apple’s IAP listings in the App Store rank IAP offerings by popularity, Twitter is being forced to reveal data that they quite likely would prefer to keep to themselves.

No-Quote Attribution of the Day 

Reed Albergotti, reporting for The Washington Post on Apple’s postponement of the new child safety features for iMessage and iCloud Photos:

Apple spokesman Fred Sainz said he would not provide a statement on Friday’s announcement because The Washington Post would not agree to use it without naming the spokesperson.

Fair enough, I suppose, but Albergotti’s blinders have become rather obvious.

Apple Delays Rollout of Controversial Child Safety Features 

Apple, in a statement to the media this morning:

Last month we announced plans for features intended to help protect children from predators who use communication tools to recruit and exploit them, and limit the spread of Child Sexual Abuse Material. Based on feedback from customers, advocacy groups, researchers and others, we have decided to take additional time over the coming months to collect input and make improvements before releasing these critically important child safety features.

Accepting feedback and considering that feedback is exactly why they announced these two initiatives in advance, with details, rather than just launching them. Neither of these initiatives should be rushed.

Vintage 2016 Claim Chowder: ‘It’s Official: Google Is the New Apple’ 

Funny how this didn’t work out, at all, because I thought that when Inc. declared something “official” it was official.

Three New Jersey Cops Swept Away in Flooding, Clung to Trees for Hours, Fired Guns to Signal for Help 

Kevin Shea, reporting for

The call was for a vehicle in floodwaters on Route 518 in Hopewell Township — one of many rescue calls in New Jersey Wednesday evening as storms from Hurricane Ida flooded the state. Police Officer James Hoffman went to check it out.

Moments after arriving in the area, east of Route 31 at about 8:30 p.m., Hoffman turned into a victim.

His patrol car started taking on water, then started floating away — sliding sideways about 100 yards into deeper water. Hoffman ditched his bulky duty vest, climbed through a window and started swimming. He found a tree and held on.

Amazing story.

Surgical Masks Reduce COVID-19 Spread, Large-Scale Study Shows 

Stanford Medicine:

A large, randomized trial led by researchers at Stanford Medicine and Yale University has found that wearing a surgical face mask over the mouth and nose is an effective way to reduce the occurrence of COVID-19 in community settings.

It also showed that relatively low-cost, targeted interventions to promote mask-wearing can significantly increase the use of face coverings in rural, low-income countries. Based on the results, the interventional model is being scaled up to reach tens of millions of people in Southeast Asia and Latin America over the next few months.

You might be tempted to file this under “Duh”, but it’s essential to actually study things like this rigorously. It was just 18 months ago, at the outset of the pandemic, when the CDC and other health organizations were saying people shouldn’t bother with face masks.

(Via Taegan Goddard at Political Wire.)

‘Oh My Fucking God, Get the Fucking Vaccine Already, You Fucking Fucks’ 

Wendy Molyneux, writing eloquently for McSweeney’s:

You think vaccines don’t fucking work? Oh, fuck off into the trash, you attention-seeking fuckworm-faced shitbutt. This isn’t even a point worth discussing, you fuck-o-rama fuck-stival of ignorance. Vaccines got rid of smallpox and polio and all the other disgusting diseases that used to kill off little fucks like you en masse. Your relatives got fucking vaccinated and let you live, and now here you are signing up to be killed by a fucking disease against which there is a ninety-nine-percent effective vaccine. You fucking moron. Go in the fucking ocean and fuck a piranha. Fuck. Fuck that. Fuck you. Get vaccinated.

Initial Details on Using Driver’s Licenses and State ID’s in Apple Wallet

Apple Newsroom:

Apple today announced that it is working with several states across the country, which will roll out the ability for their residents to seamlessly and securely add their driver’s license or state ID to Wallet on their iPhone and Apple Watch. Arizona and Georgia will be the first states to introduce this new innovation to their residents, with Connecticut, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Oklahoma, and Utah to follow. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will enable select airport security checkpoints and lanes in participating airports as the first locations customers can use their driver’s license or state ID in Wallet. Built with privacy at the forefront, Wallet provides a more secure and convenient way for customers to present their driver’s licenses and state IDs on iPhone or Apple Watch.

There’s a lot of information about exactly how this will work in the Newsroom post, including screenshots. I got to talk with Apple about this today, and I’m impressed. A few important details:

Driver’s licenses and state IDs in Wallet are only presented digitally through encrypted communication directly between the device and the identity reader, so users do not need to unlock, show, or hand over their device.

This is a super key point. Of course no one wants to hand over their phone to anyone. More importantly, no one should ever hand their phone to a police officer, and that goes a hundredfold if it’s unlocked.1 The Wallet system Apple has designed for ID is very much like Apple Pay. When you pay with a physical credit card, you often hand your card to an employee. When you pay with Apple Pay, you never hand your phone to an employee. It wouldn’t even work, because no one else can authorize an Apple Pay transaction without your biometric authentication. This ID feature for Wallet is exactly like that: it doesn’t work without your biometric authentication, and your phone does not unlock when you use it.

An interesting sidenote: when using a Touch ID iPhone with Apple Wallet’s ID feature, you must register one and only one finger when you add your ID to your Wallet, and whenever you verify your ID in Wallet, you’ll need to use that same finger. Apple has never recommended allowing your spouse or partner to register one of their fingers on your iPhone, but many people do that. This feature is designed to ensure that the same person who enrolled their state ID in Wallet is the same person verifying it biometrically. (This is not an issue with Face ID, obviously.)

To use your ID in Wallet, you tap your phone (or watch) against an NFC terminal, and you get an Apple Pay-like sheet showing you who is asking for your ID (e.g., TSA), and exactly which details from your ID they’re asking for (e.g., name, photo, date of birth — but perhaps not other embedded details like your blood type or your home address). So if you’re just buying booze, say, and the clerk or server needs to check your age, they could prompt only to verify that you’re 21 or older, without even seeing your exact birthdate, let alone any other details from your ID. It is exceedingly more private than handing over a physical ID card, perhaps even more so than using Apple Pay compared to handing over a physical credit card.

Also, it’s an open standard:

Apple’s mobile ID implementation supports the ISO 18013-5 mDL (mobile driver’s license) standard which Apple has played an active role in the development of, and which sets clear guidelines for the industry around protecting consumers’ privacy when presenting an ID or driver’s license through a mobile device.

Apple announced Apple Pay 7 years ago. It worked at few places at first. Soon, though, it started being accepted at more establishments, as businesses upgraded older terminals with new card readers for modern chip-enabled cards. But two years in, the impatient gimme-that-one-cookie-now-I-don’t-care-if-I-can-just-wait-a-few-minutes-and-get-a-whole-bunch-of-cookies-later geniuses at Business Insider were running headlines like “Apple Pay Is Struggling to Catch On”.

You don’t see headlines like that any more. Nor do you see many headlines about Google Pay “catching up” — it’s not and maybe never will.

These things take time, partnerships, evangelism, planning, and diligent hard work. There were a lot more complaints asking why Apple Pay didn’t work almost everywhere circa 2016 than there are kudos now that it does work almost everywhere. Patience and focus are essential to winning a long game, but success can be rather thankless. Apple excels at thankless long games. Other companies, not so much.

I expect a similar timeline for using ID through Apple Wallet: a year or two where it seems like we can’t really use it anywhere, another few years where we start using it more and more, and then, when we start getting close to a decade down the road, without much fanfare, it’ll be our default method of presenting ID.2  

  1. Seriously, never ever hand your phone to a cop or anyone vaguely cop-like, like the rent-a-cops working for TSA. If they tell you that you must, refuse. If you really need to hand it over, they’ll take it from you. Also, and this is really important, something you should internalize now, so you don’t have to try to remember it in a moment of stress or panic: how to hard-lock your iPhone.

    With a Face ID iPhone, you hard-lock your iPhone by pressing and holding the side button and either volume button. Two seconds or so — just long enough to make the “Slide to power off” screen appear. (That screen also has sliders for Medical ID and Emergency SOS.) With a Touch ID iPhone, you just press and hold the power button.

    Once you do this, your iPhone will require your passcode to unlock. You can’t use Face ID or Touch ID to unlock until after you’ve unlocked with your passcode. That means even if someone confiscates your phone by force, they cannot unlock it by pointing it at your face or by forcing your finger onto the Touch ID sensor. Remember to put your iPhone into this mode every time you’re separated from it as you go through the magnetometer at any security checkpoint, especially in the airport.

    Don’t just memorize this, internalize it, so you can do it without even thinking. Make it something you know the way you know your own middle name. By design, it’s an action you can perform surreptitiously while your iPhone remains in your pocket or purse.

    Another action to remember: If you click the power button five times in a row, your iPhone will immediately sound a klaxon and will initiate an Emergency SOS call in three seconds. This will also hard-lock your phone, but, by design, it is the opposite of surreptitious. ↩︎

  2. I’ll tell you what would be some nice icing on the cake: if Apple can convince state DMVs to let Apple design the digital cards in Wallet. My driver’s license is so goddamned ugly — mostly typeset in Arial (of-fucking-course), with a script font for “Pennsylvania” that looks like it came on a clip art CD included free with every Compaq PC in 1994 — that if it were a design project for a class I was teaching, I’d pull the student aside and make them this offer: take an F for the project, or, promise to change majors and I’ll give them a gentleperson’s C on their way out the door of design school. Most other states don’t do much better. ID cards should be beautiful and inspiring objects, a source of pride. Help us Apple-Wan Kenobi, you’re our only hope. ↩︎︎