On iPad Features (or Lack Thereof) at WWDC 2016 

Federico Viticci:

In my iOS 10 Wishes story from April, I wrote:

I heard from multiple sources a few weeks ago that some iPad-only features will be shipped in 10.x updates following the release of iOS 10 in the Fall. I wouldn’t be surprised if some iPad changes and feature additions won’t make the cut for WWDC.

I didn’t have high hopes for major iPad-specific features to be announced at WWDC. Still, I was disappointed to see the iPad return to the backseat after last year’s revitalization. Every time Craig Federighi ended a segment with “it works on the iPad, too”, it felt like the iPad had become an afterthought again.

After WWDC, I strongly believe that Apple has notable iPad-only features in the pipeline, but they won’t be available until later in the iOS 10 cycle, possibly in early 2017.

It seems like Apple is shifting to a model where more features roll out in .1, .2, and .3 updates throughout the year, so this makes sense. As for what some of those iPad-specific features might be, Viticci’s own aforelinked wish list is a good start.

Pairing Over Lightning — First Pencil, Next ‘AirPods’? 

How to pair an Apple Pencil with an iPad Pro:

The first time you use your Apple Pencil, take off its cap and plug it into the Lightning connector on your iPad Pro. After a few seconds, you’ll see the Pair button. Tap it.

After you pair your Apple Pencil, it will stay paired until you restart your iPad, turn on airplane mode, or pair with another iPad Pro. Just pair your Apple Pencil again when you’re ready to use it.

There are many pros and cons to using Bluetooth headphones today. One of the cons is the pain of pairing with a device, especially compared to wired headphones. With wired headphones you can switch from using them with your iPhone to your Mac just by unplugging them from the phone and plugging them into your Mac. With Bluetooth headphones you’ve got to go into Settings on the iPhone and unpair, then go to Settings on the Mac to pair again. Then vice-versa when you want to go back.

Spitball: What if Apple is planning on Bluetooth earbuds that include a Lightning jack, like the Pencil? Plug them in to the device you want to pair them with, tap “Pair”, and you’re done. Easy to charge, too. (But again, this only works across iOS and Mac if Macs gain Lightning ports.)

Update: As pointed out by Jason Snell (and others), the new Magic Mouse 2, Magic Keyboard, and Magic Trackpad 2 all pair to a Mac by Lightning, too. But those peripherals are Lightning female; the Pencil is Lightning male. Something would have to give for a pair of wireless earbuds that pair by Lightning to work on both iOS devices and Macs. A dongle is of course possible, but would be frequently lost.

Newspaper Front Pages About Brexit From Around the World 

Feels like The Washington Post really downplayed the magnitude of this story.

Update: The winner: next week’s cover of The New Yorker. Be sure to note the issue date.

New Accessibility Features in iOS, MacOS, tvOS, and WatchOS 

Jordan Kahn, writing for 9to5Mac last week:

iOS 10 magnifier: In iOS 10 there is a new accessibility feature called Magnifier that lets you use the camera as a magnifying glass with a custom UI. The magnifier UI gives you access to the camera flash, and the ability to lock focus and grab a freeze frame. You can also adjust color filters to increase contrast for easier viewing. […]

You can enable it in Settings → General → Accessibility → Magnifier, and then activate it with a triple tap of the home button.

Tons of great accessibility improvements across all four platforms, but I love this particular one personally.

Why the iPhone Will Not Switch From Lightning to USB-C 

One of the ideas I’ve seen bandied about regarding the purported removal of the standard headphone jack on this year’s new iPhones is that maybe it’s because the iPhone is switching from Lightning to USB-C. The idea being that switching from one industry-wide standard to another would be more palatable than switching from a standard port to an Apple proprietary one. I say no way.

First, Apple likes having a proprietary port for strategic purposes. They like having control over iOS device peripherals. They like not having to wait for standards bodies to approve new designs and features.

Second, even if Apple wanted to switch to a standard port, they wouldn’t switch to USB-C — it’s significantly thicker than Lightning. Josh Flowers made some excellent renderings in March showing just how much thicker USB-C is than Lightning. That’s the end of the story, right there, if you assume that Apple wants to keep making iPhones thinner and thinner. (And if you don’t assume that, you are wrong.)

Missing the Point on Removal of the iPhone Headphone Jack 

Steve Streza, “John Gruber Misses the Point Completely About Lightning Headphones”:

John can argue all he wants that this is all somehow in the best interest of customers by virtue of it being great business for Apple, but it simply isn’t true. It also won’t be a hill that many customers will die on at the point of sale. People will not buy into Lightning headphones, they will put up with it. This transition will be painful and difficult because of just how thoroughly entrenched the current solution is, how little the new solution offers, and how many complications it adds for customers. Nilay is correct, it is user-hostile, and it is stupid.

I didn’t argue that this change will be good for users. I argued that it could be. We don’t know yet! It might be stupid and user-hostile. It might not be. But if you look at history, these things tend to work out just fine.

Daring Fireball RSS Feed Sponsorships for Summer 

July and August are pretty much wide open on the sponsorship calendar. If you’ve got a cool product or service to promote to DF’s astute audience, get in touch and let’s fill these spots up.

Apple Discontinues the Thunderbolt Display 

Rene Ritchie:

Apple is discontinuing the Thunderbolt Display, the standard resolution, external IPS monitor the company has been selling since 2011. An Apple spokesperson provided us with the following statement:

“We’re discontinuing the Apple Thunderbolt Display,” Apple told iMore. “It will be available through Apple.com, Apple’s retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers while supplies last. There are a number of great third-party options available for Mac users.”

This is a good example of Apple punditry being like Kremlinology. Does this mean Apple is getting out of the standalone display market? Or does it mean, Just wait, we’ve got a retina display coming, but because it isn’t ready to be announced, we won’t talk about it?

I’m guessing the latter, that a 5K display from Apple is coming. But that’s just a guess.

David Sparks on WatchOS 3 

David Sparks was brave/foolish enough to put the iOS 10 beta on his daily iPhone, which in turn allowed him to update his Apple Watch to WatchOS 3:

Likewise the watchOS Dock works swimmingly. I’ve pressed the physical button for the Dock more times in the last week than I did in the prior year when it was the Friends button. The background refresh of Dock-based apps is the killer feature here. I can actually now consider some third party apps that hold time sensitive data without worrying whether or not they’ll be up-to-date.

I’m quite impressed with Apple’s ability to go back to the drawing board and improve the user interface of the Apple Watch. I’m even more impressed, however, that they are squeezing this much better performance out of the exact same pokey hardware I had a week ago. I simply didn’t think it was possible.

‘Helvetica’ Director Gary Hustwit Is Kickstartering a Documentary About Dieter Rams 

Hell yeah, I’m backing this.

The Brexit Ballot Is Simple and Clear 

Libby Nelson, writing for Vox:

The question is written in plain language: “Should the United Kingdom remain in the European Union or leave the European Union?” And while it’s a yes-no question, the options make it perfectly clear which one you’re choosing and how you should do it. (The Scottish referendum ballot in 2014 was even clearer: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”)

This is a very good design — but points off for setting it in Arial.

Is Poor Shift Lever Design to Blame for Death of ‘Star Trek’ Actor Anton Yelchin? 

Rain Noe, writing for Core77:

Over the weekend Anton Yelchin, the 27-year-old actor known for playing Chekov in the recent Star Trek movies, was killed in what was referred to as “a freak accident” in his Los Angeles driveway. But was it really “freak?” It seems to us that lousy design may have played a role.

Yelchin was found crushed between his car, a 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and the security gate at the end of his driveway. It appears that Yelchin had exited his car and walked behind it, perhaps to close the gate, and apparently believed the transmission was in “Park.” Instead it appears it was actually in “Reverse” or “Neutral” and the car rolled down his steep driveway, killing him.

This brings us to the design of the 2014-2015 Grand Cherokee’s shifter.

That is a horrendous design. Betteridge’s Law be damned, I think the answer to this headline is clearly “Yes”.

Update: Ben Sandofsky shows another bad shifter, from a Chrysler he rented. Chrysler owns Jeep — what the hell is going on over there?

Imagine if Exxon Was Protected From Liability After the Valdez 

Evan Osnos, author of this week’s New Yorker feature on the U.S. gun industry, in a Reddit AMA:

Anybody — especially people who favor free markets — should conclude that the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was a big mistake. Imagine if Exxon was protected from liability after the Valdez? That’s not how markets should work. It will probably be revised or repealed to make sure that companies are doing safe work — as with any industry.

Update: The above comment seems to have been deleted from the Reddit thread. But The New Yorker Twitter account even tweeted it as a pull quote.

Can the Light on Modern Mac FaceTime Cameras Be Bypassed by Malware? 

The previous bit about using tape to cover your laptop camera got me wondering about the indicator light that shows when Mac FaceTime cameras are in use. Back in 2013, security researchers at Johns Hopkins University showed how this could be overridden:

Marcus Thomas, former assistant director of the FBI’s Operational Technology Division in Quantico, said in a recent story in The Washington Post that the FBI has been able to covertly activate a computer’s camera — without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording — for several years.

Now research from Johns Hopkins University provides the first public confirmation that it’s possible to do just that, and demonstrates how. While the research focused on MacBook and iMac models released before 2008, the authors say similar techniques could work on more recent computers from a wide variety of vendors. In other words, if a laptop has a built-in camera, it’s possible someone — whether the federal government or a malicious 19 year old — could access it to spy on the user at any time.

I’m curious whether this remains true for recent Mac FaceTime cameras. Does the same technique still work?

LeBron James Played Steve Jobs’s Commencement Address to Inspire the Cavs During NBA Finals 

Ramona Shelburne, writing for ESPN:

LeBron had spent the weekend watching old Muhammad Ali fights, in awe at the champ’s perseverance. His longtime friend and adviser, Nike executive Lynn Merritt, had suggested he study the way Ali carried himself in those epic 12- and 15-round fights. The way Ali took punches, knowing his opponent would eventually tire. The way he taunted opponents, flaunting his superior skill and talents, knowing he would get into their heads. His teammates needed something else, though. Something they could connect to that would make them believe this series was not over. And so LeBron gathered everyone in the Cavaliers locker room before Game 3 and played a portion of Steve Jobs’ commencement address to Stanford University in 2005.

Script Debugger 6 

Great update to one of my all-time favorite apps. Major new features include code-folding, auto-completion, robust support for AppleScriptObjC (including inspection of Objective-C object values), and a whole lot more. If you write AppleScript, you owe it to yourself to try Script Debugger.

On Covering Your Laptop Camera With Tape 

Katie Rogers, in a piece for the NYT headlined “Mark Zuckerberg Covers His Laptop Camera. You Should Consider It, Too.”:

On Tuesday, observers were reminded that Mr. Zuckerberg, 32, is not just a normal guy who enjoys running and quiet dinners with friends. In a photo posted to his Facebook account, he celebrated the growing user base of Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. An eagle-eyed Twitter user named Chris Olson noticed that in the image’s background, his laptop camera and microphone jack appeared to be covered with tape.

Other publications, including Gizmodo, used the tweet to raise the question: Was this paranoia, or just good practice?

I think this is nonsense. Malware that can surreptitiously engage your camera can do all sort of other nefarious things. If you can’t trust your camera, you can’t trust your keyboard either. Follow best practices to avoid malware in the first place — don’t install Flash Player, and don’t install software from sketchy sources — and you’ll almost certainly be fine.

(If you look at the photo, Zuckerberg wasn’t even careful applying the tape — it partially covers his display. That would drive me nuts.)

Update: Covering the microphone with tape is downright pointless. Tape blocks light, yes, but not sound waves. Try it.

Long-Term Goals, Short-Term Annoyances 

Neven Mrgan sums it up in a tweet:

Removing the iPhone headphone jack is a fine long-term goal. Complaining about the short-term annoyances is also fine. These are compatible.

Removing the analog headphone jack is inevitable, and the transition is inevitably irritating. This is what makes Apple different. They will initiate a painful transition for a long-term gain. Other companies will avoid inducing pain at all costs — and you wind up using VGA until the mid-2010s.

Joanna Stern Cuts the Cheese 

Joanna Stern:

It’s why I’ve long felt technology’s thinolympics has been a waste of time. “Our new product is so much thinner than the competition that you can fit one more sheet of paper into your messenger bag! You’ll need to make room for the charger, though, since we cut out some battery. Sorry!”

The equation has long been: Thinner + lighter = poorer performance + shorter battery life. Both the Spectre and the MacBook, updated in April, still require you to make some sacrifices. But the trade-offs no longer outweigh the benefits of owning a laptop that could double as a cheese knife — if that’s what you want.

Pairs well with yesterday’s debate over the purported lack of a headphone jack in the next iPhone.

iOS 10 Kernel Code Is Not Encrypted 

Tom Simonite, writing for the MIT Technology Review:

Some security experts who inspected that new version of iOS got a big surprise.

They found that Apple had not obscured the workings of the heart of its operating system using encryption as the company has done before. Crucial pieces of the code destined to power millions of iPhones and iPads were laid bare for all to see. That would aid anyone looking for security weaknesses in Apple’s flagship software.

Security experts say the famously secretive company may have adopted a bold new strategy intended to encourage more people to report bugs in its software — or perhaps made an embarrassing mistake. Apple declined to comment on why it didn’t follow its usual procedure.

Rene Ritchie:

My understanding is that the reason was something else entirely: Streamlining the operating system.

Since it contains only the kernel, device drivers, and configuration files — and absolutely no user data — the iOS 10 kernel cache can be left unencrypted without any concerns over security or privacy.

Rene’s understanding of things is usually very well-informed. This strikes me as highly unlikely to be a mistake.

Update: Just got this from an Apple spokesperson:

“The kernel cache doesn’t contain any user info, and by unencrypting it we’re able to optimize the operating system’s performance without compromising security.”

So: definitely not a mistake.

Derek Jeter and Barack Obama in Conversation 

Derek Jeter:

This isn’t an interview, and it’s not about politics. I simply wanted to share our perspectives on a few things that are meaningful to both of us.

We talked about retirement and our inspirations — and the President even snuck in a few good jokes on me. Most of all, we shared thoughts about the importance of mentors and role models, and the work we both are doing through the Turn 2 Foundation and My Brother’s Keeper.

So great. I really enjoyed this.


Headphone Jacks Are the New Floppy Drives

Nilay Patel, “Taking the Headphone Jack Off Phones Is User-Hostile and Stupid”:

But just face facts: ditching the headphone jack on phones makes them worse, in extremely obvious ways. Let’s count them!

And let’s compare them to arguments against removing floppy drives from the iMac in 1998.

1. Digital audio means DRM audio

Restricting audio output to a purely digital connection means that music publishers and streaming companies can start to insist on digital copyright enforcement mechanisms. We moved our video systems to HDMI and got HDCP, remember? Copyright enforcement technology never stops piracy and always hurts the people who most rely on legal fair use, but you can bet the music industry is going to start cracking down on “unauthorized” playback and recording devices anyway.

I’m not familiar with how people are taking advantage of the “analog loophole” to do things with audio out of the iPhone headphone port that would be forbidden using the digital Lightning port, but now seems like a good time to raise the big question: Should the analog headphone jack remain on our devices forever? If you think so, you can stop reading. If not, when? Maybe now is the wrong time, and Apple is making a mistake. I don’t know. None of us outside the company seem to know, because all that has leaked is that the new iPhone won’t have the port, with no explanation why. But I say at some point it will go away, and now seems like it might be the right time. Also, historically, Apple has proven to be very good at timing the removal of established legacy ports.

Patel misses the bigger problem. It’s not enforcement of DRM on audio playback. It’s enforcement of the MFi Program for certifying hardware that uses the Lightning port. Right now any headphone maker in the world can make any headphones they want for the standard jack. Not so with the Lightning port.

We deal with DRM when it comes to video because we generally don’t rewatch and take TV shows and movies with us, but you will rue the day Apple decided to make the iPhone another 1mm thinner the instant you get a “playback device not supported” message. Winter is coming.

As an aside, whatever the merits of this decision, it’s not about device thinness. The iPhone 6 is the thinnest iPhone to date at 6.9mm. The iPod Touch has a headphone jack and is just 6.1mm thick. The iPod Nano: 5.4mm. The analog headphone jack is more costly in terms of depth than thickness.

2. Wireless headphones and speakers are fine, not great

Totally agree. But the rumor is that the new iPhone will ship with wired Lightning earbuds.

3. Dongles are stupid, especially when they require other dongles

External floppy drives sucked too.

4. Ditching a deeply established standard will disproportionately impact accessibility

The traditional headphone jack is a standard for a reason — it works. It works so well that an entire ecosystem of other kinds of devices has built up around it, and millions of people have access to compatible devices at every conceivable price point. The headphone jack might be less good on some metrics than Lightning or USB-C audio, but it is spectacularly better than anything else in the world at being accessible, enabling, open, and democratizing.

Apple is the company that brought us the 30-pin and Lightning ports, and whose iPhones, iPods, and iPads have never had USB ports. “Enabling, open, and democratizing” have never been high on Apple’s list of priorities for external ports. They’re on the list, to be sure. Just not high on the list.

5. Making Android and iPhone headphones incompatible is so incredibly arrogant and stupid there’s not even explanatory text under this one

Why would Apple care about headphone compatibility with Android? If Apple gave two shits about port compatibility with Android, iPhones would have Micro-USB ports. In 1998 people used floppy drives extensively for sneaker-netting files between Macs and PCs. That didn’t stop Apple from dropping it.

The incompatibility that matters is with Apple’s own devices, particularly MacBooks. Presumably Apple’s Lightning earbuds will work on iPads, too. But it’s going to suck having to use different headphones (or a dongle) for the Mac than you use with your iOS devices.1 But again, this is no different than the transition from 30-pin to Lightning. You have to start somewhere. (Unless you believe Apple should stick with the analog headphone jack as we know it forever — but I told you people to stop reading way back at the top.)

6. No one is asking for this

Raise your hand if the thing you wanted most from your next phone was either fewer ports or more dongles.

I didn’t think so. You wanted better battery life, didn’t you? Everyone just wants better battery life.

“No one” asked for the iMac to remove the floppy drive or switch from ADB ports to USB (at a time when PCs weren’t shipping with USB either, which meant few — I mean really few — existing USB peripherals on the market). There was a huge outcry when the iPhone 5 dumped the proprietary-but-ubiquitous 30-pin port for the proprietary-and-all-new Lightning port. MacBook Air fans are still complaining about the new MacBook’s solitary USB-C port.

This is how it goes. If it weren’t for Apple we’d probably still be using computers with VGA and serial ports. The essence of Apple is that they make design decisions “no one asked for”.

And as for battery life, surely removing the deep headphone socket can only leave more room for a larger battery.

Vote with your dollars.

We shall see. But I bet people will do just that. And in five years we’ll look at analog headphone jacks the way we look at all the other legacy ports we’ve abandoned. 


  1. Will MacBooks ship with a Lightning port in lieu of a headphone jack? If so, will they ship with headphones? (Probably not, I say. Cough up the extra $29 for a new pair of Apple EarPods.) Is this why we haven’t seen new MacBook Pros yet — because they’re waiting for the new iPhone, so that both can go Lightning-for-audio at the same time? Perhaps. ↩︎


Twitter Engage 

Casey Newton, writing for The Verge:

The app, which is available today on iOS, is designed to help famous people interact with their fans and build a bigger following. The app includes three main tabs. Engage highlights the most important interactions you’ve had on Twitter, and includes mentions from users who are verified, followed by a lot of your followers, or interact with you a lot. An “understand” tab shows you high-level analytics for your posts, showing you how many impressions you’re getting over time. And the “posts” tab shows you detailed performance numbers for individual posts.

One thing Engage doesn’t have: a timeline. Engage is for the celebrity who sees the value in tweeting, but would rather not pay attention to the broader conversation in the global town square. If reading Twitter makes you upset, but you still want to be able to broadcast the details of your latest juice cleanse, Engage may be the app for you.

Even with a verified account and a fair number of followers, I find this app almost totally useless. Anything you want to actually do, like respond to a tweet, it shoots you over to the official Twitter app. I fear for Twitter — they’re just spinning their wheels.

Update: I was wrong, you can send new tweets and replies from within Engage. Perhaps my thumb missed the tiny little “reply” button when I tried earlier. But to view details on a tweet or user profile you get switched to the Twitter app. And when you do tweet from Engage, you get this alert as soon as the tweet is sent, every time. What kind of a narcissist wants that? And how did the glaring grammatical error make it into production? It’s an alert you see after every tweet.

Collect Your Apple E-Books Antitrust Settlement 

Amazon:

In November 2014, a federal court approved a Settlement of antitrust lawsuits brought against Apple, Inc. (“Apple”) by State Attorneys General and Class Plaintiffs about the price of electronic books (“eBooks”). Those settlements resulted in credits for qualifying Kindle books purchased between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012. These credits are funded by Apple.

I got $6.28.

Adam Leventhal: ‘APFS in Detail’ 

DTrace co-creator Adam Leventhal has written a detailed analysis of APFS:

I’m not sure Apple absolutely had to replace HFS+, but likely they had passed an inflection point where continuing to maintain and evolve the 30+ year old software was more expensive than building something new. APFS is a product born of that assessment.

Based on what Apple has shown I’d surmise that its core design goals were:

  • satisfying all consumers (laptop, phone, watch, etc.)
  • encryption as a first-class citizen
  • snapshots for modernized backup.

Those are great goals that will benefit all Apple users, and based on the WWDC demos APFS seems to be on track (though the macOS Sierra beta isn’t quite as far along).

Later on:

It’s a shame that APFS lacks checksums for user data and doesn’t provide for data redundancy. Data integrity should be job one for a file system, and I believe that that’s true for a watch or phone as much as it is for a server.

I hope to see data integrity features added to APFS later, but that’s not the top priority for APFS. The top priorities for APFS are encryption/privacy, and energy efficiency. Redundancy and checksums make perfect sense for a machine plugged into the wall; they create a trade-off for devices that run on batteries. I think we’ll see these features eventually in APFS, but I’m not surprised they didn’t make the first cut.

See also: “Introducing Apple File System”, Session 701 at WWDC 2016.

Thoughts and Prayers: The Game 

Brilliant. (Careful with your audio, though — starts loud.)

Update: Turns out this is one of a series of satirical games that were rejected by Apple’s App Store.

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act 

From Evan Osnos’s excellent “Making a Killer” feature for The New Yorker, on the business and politics of selling guns in the U.S.:

With the help of Congress, the industry has avoided further lawsuits. In 2005, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act immunized gun manufacturers, distributors, and dealers from civil liability for damages caused by their products. Mike Fifer, the C.E.O. of the U.S. gunmaker Sturm, Ruger, said at an N.R.A. convention in 2011 that the law is “probably the only reason we have a U.S. firearms industry anymore.”

This passage jumped out at me. Rescinding this law should be a top priority for gun control advocates. You don’t have to go state by state. There is no Second Amendment angle. Rescind this law and let the victims of gun violence sue the manufacturers and sellers of guns. Personally, I’m all for mandatory background checks, banning high-capacity military rifles, repealing concealed carry laws, and more. But rescinding this one law shielding gun manufacturers and sellers from civil liability seems like the most politically viable first step. Why do I not hear more about this?

(Any movement on gun control is politically unviable so long as Republicans hold either house of Congress, but Democrats held both houses and the presidency as recently as 2011.)

Typeset in the Future: ‘Blade Runner’ 

Dave Addey does it again.

Tim Cook to Host Paul Ryan Fundraiser Next Week 

Tony Romm, reporting for Politico:

Apple CEO Tim Cook will host a fundraiser with House Speaker Paul Ryan next week as the iPhone maker tries to strengthen its relationships with key Republicans — despite its decision to pull support for the GOP convention because of its distaste for Donald Trump. […]

Cook is hosting the fundraiser on his own accord, as Apple does not have a corporate political action committee like Facebook, Google and other tech giants in Silicon Valley. Still, the move reflects Apple’s desire to court Republican and Democratic officeholders alike, even at a time when it has serious reservations about Trump, the GOP’s presumptive presidential nominee.

Trump isn’t merely “distasteful”. He’s radioactive. This is an interesting way to stay above the partisan fray.

20 Years of Iconfactory 

Nice retrospective, including the archived websites of each of their major web designs. Man, icon design has changed a lot in 20 years.

See also: Exify, Iconfactory’s new iOS app providing a “collection of tools for people who take their iPhone photography seriously”. I’ve been beta-testing it — it’s great.

Apple Won’t Aid Republican Convention Over Trump 

Tony Romm, reporting for Politico:

Apple has told Republican leaders it will not provide funding or other support for the party’s 2016 presidential convention, as it’s done in the past, citing Donald Trump’s controversial comments about women, immigrants and minorities.

Unlike Facebook, Google and Microsoft, which have all said they will provide some support to the GOP event in Cleveland next month, Apple decided against donating technology or cash to the effort, according to two sources familiar with the iPhone maker’s plans.

Apple’s political stand against Trump, communicated privately to Republicans, is a sign of the widening schism between Silicon Valley and the GOP’s bombastic presumptive nominee. Trump has trained his rhetorical fire on the entire tech industry, but he’s singled out Apple for particular criticism — calling for a boycott of the company’s products, and slamming CEO Tim Cook, over Apple’s stance on encryption.

You might say, well, of course Apple isn’t going to support the Republican Party. But in fact, in previous years, Apple has donated equipment equally to both major parties. Bipartisan sponsorship of the political conventions is a civic-minded gesture. But Trump is simply too toxic. Companies can’t afford to be associated with him in any way.

The Republican convention is shaping up to be a disaster. Major companies are (wisely) refusing to sponsor it, Trump’s campaign has little money to spare, and Trump himself can’t foot the bill because he actually has very little in liquid assets. None of the previous Republican candidates — Bush (neither 41 nor 43), McCain, Romney — will even attend the convention, let alone speak. Trump has so little support among prominent Republican figures that there’s even been the suggestion that Trump himself should speak every night.

It’d be funny except that our system of government depends upon both major parties being functional.

National Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Day 

Justin Miller:

My wife Michelle Petruzzi was diagnosed with, and died from, sporadic pancreatic cancer entirely within the past six months. She was thirty-six and probably the healthiest person I knew. She was active in many volunteer efforts in our community, she ran operations for a non-profit encouraging girls in tech, and she was a kind and generous soul. You can read more in the previous post.

If you live in the US, you can help other people affected by pancreatic cancer by making one or two quick phone calls this Tuesday, June 21. Read on, or you can get the summary details and make a difference in just a few minutes.

All cancer sucks, but for those of us in the Apple world, pancreatic cancer really hits home — in a famous way, with Steve Jobs, and now in a very personal way with Michelle. I know Justin, and I was happy to see him this week in San Francisco so I could offer my condolences and warm thoughts in person. But I also told him: if I can ever help you do something in Michelle’s honor, just say the word. And lo, he already has something I can help draw attention to.

It’s so easy:

  1. Sign up at the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Takes about 15 seconds — all they want is your name and email.
  2. Look for their email on Tuesday, which will tell you who to call and what to say. That’s it.

These coordinated phone calls really make a difference in U.S. politics. And increasing efforts at early detection of pancreatic cancer will save lives.

Squarespace 

My thanks to Squarespace for once again sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. If you’re a regular reader, then you almost certainly know Squarespace. But in case you don’t, Squarespace is the all-in-one platform for creating beautiful websites. Of course, sometimes a website isn’t what you need. That’s why they also offer Cover Pages and Commerce. Not quite ready for a blog, photo gallery, and all the rest? Create a simple yet striking single page website with Cover Pages. Ready to take your small business to the next level? Create a powerful online store with Commerce.

And even if you are familiar with Squarespace, they’re always adding new stuff — like Apple News integration for Squarespace blogs. Learn which product is right for you. Use the offer code “DARING” to save 10 percent at checkout.

The Talk Show: Live From WWDC 2016, With Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi 

Sponsored by:

  • MailChimp: Send better email.
  • Microsoft: Tools and services for any developer, any app, any OS. Really.
  • Meh.com: A new deal every day at midnight Eastern.
Billboard Interview With Apple Music’s Brain Trust: Iovine, Reznor, Cue, and Kondrk 

Interesting interview:

Billboard: Record labels and publishers are also concerned with the decline in download sales. Will we see a streaming-only future and when?

Cue: There’s no end date, and as a matter of fact, they should all be surprised and thankful to the results that they’re seeing because our music iTunes business is doing very well. Downloads weren’t growing, and certainly are not going to grow again, but it’s not declining anywhere near as fast as any of them predicted or thought it would. There are a lot of people who download music and are happy with it and they’re not moving towards subscriptions. We talked about subscriptions bringing a lot of new customers in, people who have never bought music. And if you look at Apple’s music revenue on a quarterly basis, because of subscriptions and because of sales, it’s now higher; it’s actually growing, which is great for the labels.

Trent Reznor: It feels as though we’ve turned a corner in terms of the adoption of streaming. I think it’s inevitable that downloads will diminish, much like CDs. But I’ve started buying vinyl — probably out of nostalgia, but also there’s something about a physical thing that has meaning to me as an artist. I think coexistence can take place.

Samsung to Buy Joyent 

Jonathan Cheng, reporting for the WSJ:

Samsung’s acquisition of San Francisco-based Joyent signals the South Korean technology giant’s burgeoning interest in “big data,” part of a broader effort to use powerful remote computers to bolster its data analysis and the computing capabilities of its devices.

Samsung said in a statement it will integrate Joyent into its mobile division, though the 11-year-old company will retain both the Joyent name and its top management, and operate at an arm’s length from its new parent company.

Long-time readers will remember that I was a very early employee at Joyent when it was founded in 2005. I left in 2006 to write Daring Fireball full-time. Kind of funny to think that in some alternate universe I’m now a Samsung employee.

What Is Differential Privacy? 

Matthew Green:

As an academic researcher and a security professional, I have mixed feelings about Apple’s announcement. On the one hand, as a researcher I understand how exciting it is to see research technology actually deployed in the field. And Apple has a very big field.

On the flip side, as security professionals it’s our job to be skeptical — to at a minimum demand people release their security-critical code (as Google did with RAPPOR), or at least to be straightforward about what it is they’re deploying. If Apple is going to collect significant amounts of new data from the devices that we depend on so much, we should really make sure they’re doing it right — rather than cheering them for Using Such Cool Ideas. (I made this mistake already once, and I still feel dumb about it.)

But maybe this is all too “inside baseball”. At the end of the day, it sure looks like Apple is honestly trying to do something to improve user privacy, and given the alternatives, maybe that’s more important than anything else.

The End of ThinkUp 

Anil Dash:

We have some tough news: We’re going to be shutting down the ThinkUp service on July 18 and issuing a refund then for the balance of all member subscriptions. There have been significant changes from Instagram, Twitter and Facebook that make it too hard for us to keep the service running, especially since we’ve been struggling as a business. We’re sorry, and we’re going to try to handle this shutdown the right way.

A shame — I really liked ThinkUp. Every week it surfaces something interesting from Twitter that I hadn’t noticed on my own.

Safari 10 Will No Longer Load Legacy Plugins By Default 

Ricky Mondello, on the WebKit blog:

By default, Safari no longer tells websites that common plug-ins are installed. It does this by not including information about Flash, Java, Silverlight, and QuickTime in navigator.plugins and navigator.mimeTypes. This convinces websites with both plug-in and HTML5-based media implementations to use their HTML5 implementation.

Of these plug-ins, the most widely-used is Flash. Most websites that detect that Flash isn’t available, but don’t have an HTML5 fallback, display a “Flash isn’t installed” message with a link to download Flash from Adobe. If a user clicks on one of those links, Safari will inform them that the plug-in is already installed and offer to activate it just one time or every time the website is visited. The default option is to activate it only once. We have similar handling for the other common plug-ins.

The worst is when a site that could serve you HTML5 media content instead sends you the Flash version, just because you have Flash installed. This should fix that problem for Safari users.

‘The End of Apple Man’ 

Katie Notopoulos, writing for BuzzFeed:

But the effervescent demo of Apple Music by the charismatic Bozoma Saint John — a black woman who looked and acted nothing like the typical Apple Men onstage before her and who in her opening remarks mentioned being a mother — felt like a breath of fresh air signaling that perhaps the winds are changing. There were other signals too. In the video segment cheering on developers using Apple’s Swift programming language, the video ended with a black woman joyfully expounding how awesome coding was — certainly not the stereotype of a coder, and not totally reflective of the crowd there watching the video. At another Apple event in March, another black female Apple executive, Lisa Jackson, took the stage to talk about Apple’s environmental efforts.

Breaking the Apple Man stereotype in the people who appear on stage as the Apple’s evangelists is symbolic. Having a black woman present on stage might just mean the company is more aware of the optics of its events.

Good points about the new “emergency alert” feature on Apple Watch being designed for women, too.

The Talk Show: Live From WWDC 2016 Video Stream 

Doors open for attendees at 6pm PT, but the actual show and live video stream will start around 7pm PT / 10pm ET.

Should be a good show.

Update: The live stream went down about halfway through — sorry — but the show went great. Top people are hard at work on the video and audio as I type.


Brief Thoughts and Observations Regarding Today’s WWDC 2016 Keynote

Venue

Moscone West isn’t big enough for 5,000 attendees to fit in a room, so a few thousand WWDC attendees always had to sit in an overflow room where they’d watch the keynote on video. That’s a major reason why attendees would line up at the crack of dawn, even though the keynotes start at 10 am. The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium has no such limitation, and it was nice to see (and hear) all attendees. The sound system there was just great, and the huge screen behind the stage was good too. I give the new venue a thumbs-up.

WatchOS 3

I was hoping for a thorough reinvention of the WatchOS UI navigation structure, and it looks like we got it. Glances are gone — an updated app for WatchOS 3 is a glance. Just tap the side button once to see the new “Dock”, and the apps in the Dock are live views of the actual apps. A conceptual simplification, along with a deliberate effort to reduce many common tasks to just one or two taps, is just what the doctor ordered for Apple Watch.

As for the purported dramatic improvements to app launching times and background data refreshing, I’ll believe it when I see it, but it sounds like an amazing year-over-year improvement.

tvOS 10

I’d be happy if the only new feature were the system-wide single-sign on for authenticating with your cable provider to use apps that require proof that you subscribe to a traditional TV service.

It didn’t make the keynote, but another change to tvOS that games can now require a dedicated gaming controller. I can see why Apple didn’t allow that — they wanted to push developers to support the Siri Remote as a controller. But some games simply require a real controller. That requirement was holding back the platform. (“Common sense prevails” is arguably the theme of this year’s announcements.)

The Newly-Renamed MacOS 10.12

I love the name change, but as someone who remembers when the classic Mac operating system was called “Mac OS”, I’m finding it tough to type without the space. Back then, “MacOS” was considered a typo.

The new “Continuity” features between devices sound great. Auto-unlocking your Mac with your Apple Watch is a very cool feature, as is the new Universal Clipboard. (That’s not really a Mac feature — it works from one iOS device to another, too.)

iOS 10

I don’t have time to write about all the new features that were announced today (let alone all the ones that didn’t even make the keynote), but looking over my notes, it strikes me that these are all very practical improvements. Everyone encounters the lock screen; Apple has made it more useful. Siri is smarter and can now integrate with third-party apps. Computer vision analysis of your photos — if it works well — will be useful to anyone who takes a lot of photos.

But perhaps the biggest change wasn’t even mentioned on stage. Most built-in system apps can now be removed from your device.1 Third-party VoIP apps can now commandeer the lock screen when an incoming call arrives — something that until now was reserved for the Phone and FaceTime apps. Likewise, third-party messaging apps can be specified as the default for people on a per-contact basis. iOS 10 looks like the anti-lock-in release.

iMessage

I’ve been arguing for a while now that iMessage is vastly under-appreciated as one of the most popular and best messaging platforms in the world. I think because it’s only for Apple devices it somehow doesn’t count in some people’s minds, even though there are (according to Apple) a billion Apple devices in use.

Messages is the most-used app on iOS, so it makes sense for Apple to spend a lot of time and attention on it. With the bigger emoji, stickers, and “bubble effects”, it’s clear that a lot of Apple’s work went into making Messages just plain fun. But the new extension APIs that allow for “iMessage Apps” strike me as turning iMessage into a genuine platform. One way to think about it is as an effort to move away from sharing plain text (and often ugly, unreadable) URLs that open in Safari and instead exchange software “objects” that are usable right there in the message thread.

Swift Playgrounds

We don’t have Xcode for iPad yet, but this is a start. It looks like a lot of fun and a great way to learn Swift or even just how to program, period. This is the most approachable programming environment from Apple since HyperCard. I’m interested to see whether Playground files wind up like HyperCard stacks. 


  1. Curiously, there doesn’t seem to be a way to specify a third-party app as the default handler for things like “mailto:” links, even if you remove the system Mail app. I hope that’s just something Apple hasn’t gotten to yet. ↩︎


App Store Subscription Uncertainty

From Lauren Goode’s interview with Phil Schiller for The Verge, specifically regarding the new 85/15 revenue split after the first year of a subscription (italic emphasis mine):

But Schiller insisted that it wasn’t any kind of “Apple tax” backlash or companies encouraging users to go to their own websites that drove Apple’s new subscription model: “It wasn’t done from a negative like that,” he says. When I asked about this, he stresses that it was “absolutely done because we recognize that developers do a lot of work to retain a customer over time in a subscription model, and we wanted to reward them for that by helping them to keep more of the revenue.” Apple can help drive customers to the original download, Schiller argues, but only the developer can keep the customer over time and “we want to incent them to do that.”

Schiller imagines scenarios where many kinds of apps that were previously single-time purchases could move to the model. Games that have an ongoing subscription-like program, ones that have a massive online playing world that require upgrades of game worlds, might make sense. He suggests many enterprise apps could move to subscription, and that professional apps that require “a lot of maintenance of new features and versions” would be a good fit.

That’s pretty much exactly what Schiller told me yesterday too, which colored my take on the breadth of apps that could take advantage of subscription pricing. I wrote:

This dramatically changes the economics of the App Store. Until now, productivity apps could charge up front as paid downloads and that was it. Updates had to be free, or, to charge for major new versions, developers would have to play confusing games by making the new version an entirely new SKU in the app store. Twitter clients like Tweetbot and Twitterrific, for example, did this, to justify years of ongoing development. Now, apps like this can instead charge an annual/monthly/etc. subscription fee.

But Apple’s own “What’s New in Subscriptions” web page makes this uncertain:

Starting this fall, apps in all categories on the App Store will be eligible to offer in-app purchases for auto-renewable subscriptions to services or content. Users enjoy the reliability that comes with subscribing to a service that they love, and the experience must provide ongoing value worth the recurring payment for an auto-renewable subscription to make sense. Although all categories of apps will be eligible, this business model is not appropriate for every app.

Like many freemium apps, successful auto-renewable subscription apps operate as services that are continuously supported, and often require sustained content development or feature enhancements to retain users. Whether updating content on a regular basis, providing on-demand use of a service, or giving access to a large collection of content, successful auto-renewable subscription apps are equipped to offer continued utility and enjoyment to their subscribers.

In a sidebar titled “Types of Auto-Renewable Subscriptions”, Apple lists only two, “Content” and “Services”:

Content
Provide paid access to content that is updated or delivered on a regular basis, such as newspapers, educational courses, or audio or video libraries.

Services
Provide paid access to an ongoing service within your app, such as cloud storage or massive multiplayer online games (MMOGs).

Professional apps that require “a lot of maintenance of new features and versions” don’t fit either of those categories. Would Twitter clients like Tweetbot and Twitterrific qualify for subscription pricing? After talking to Schiller yesterday, I thought so. Now, I don’t know. Developers are definitely confused.

Brent Simmons:

I have a side project, a Mac app, that I could also do as an iOS app. I have no plans to do so — but the news about subscriptions and free trials makes me reconsider.

It might be sustainable with this new model.

But here’s the thing: the app is a stand-alone thing. I’m not running a backend web service for it. Would it be okay to use the subscription-based pricing? […] What does “not appropriate” mean? Does that mean rejection? Or is that just a warning that it’s maybe not the best fit, but it’s okay to try it anyway?


Schiller obviously knows what he’s talking about, but what he’s said seems to be outside the new written rules. So I think what Apple is trying to do here is discourage frivolous use of subscriptions. I think it’s obvious from Apple’s own description that while apps from any category are now allowed to offer subscription, that doesn’t mean every app will be allowed to. Like with many App Store rules, Apple doesn’t spell things out in detail in order to preserve control and flexibility. Like Justice Potter Stewart’s “I know it when I see it” definition of “obscenity”, I think Apple wants to define “good use of the subscription business model” as “we know it when we see it”.

The problem with that is that developers don’t know whether they’re going to be approved or not. As it stands, they would need to do all the engineering (and design) work to support subscriptions, submit the app, and wait to see if it’s approved and perhaps appeal if it isn’t. That’s bad enough for an existing app whose developer wants to switch to subscription pricing. But this uncertainty is downright untenable for a new app whose developer sees subscription pricing as the only sustainable business model to justify the app’s development in the first place.

The letter of the rules Apple has posted creates counterintuitive incentives for developers. An app with its own proprietary sync service can use the subscription model, but a competing app that provides the same features using CloudKit cannot. But Apple wants developers to use iCloud.

I think Apple should just allow any app to offer subscription pricing, period. Apple’s role should be as the trusted platform vendor, making sure users can easily cancel subscriptions, requiring opt-in to any pricing changes, and making sure no one is being tricked or confused in any way. Otherwise Apple should allow developers to define their use of subscriptions as they see fit. In the same way that developers with paid-up-front apps can pick their own price, and users determine whether it’s worth it or not, developers of subscription-based apps should be able to define their own “here’s what you get when you subscribe” features and let users decide whether they’re worth the price or not. I don’t think Apple ought to control this — the market will work itself out. People won’t sign up for a bad subscription offering for the same reasons they don’t sign up for bad subscription deals in the world outside the App Store.

Apple needs to clarify this to remove the uncertainty.


Another question: If an app is deemed qualified to use subscription pricing, must it be functional in some limited way without a subscription? Apps that use in-app purchases must be functional without the IAP. Is that true for subscription-based apps too?

My understanding is that if an app gets approved for subscription pricing, then it is up to the developer whether the app is useful without a subscription. A simple comparison: Spotify and Netflix. Spotify plays music for free (with ads) even if you don’t pay them a nickel. Netflix, on the other hand, doesn’t offer any content to non-subscribers. I’d like to see Apple clarify this too.


I should add that I don’t think subscription pricing — even if Apple clarified that subscriptions are open to any app, period — are a panacea. There is no perfect way to sell software. The old way — pay up front, then pay for major upgrades in the future — has problems, too, just a different set of problems. If I had my druthers Apple would enable paid upgrades in the App Store(s), but I get the feeling that’s not in the cards. That leaves us with subscriptions.

DF reader Sean Harding framed the problems with subscription pricing well, in a short series of tweets:

I think the new stuff is good, but I don’t think it really solves the upgrade pricing problem from a customer standpoint. A sub forces me to effectively always buy the upgrade or stop using even the old version. I don’t dislike subscriptions because I don’t want to pay. I just want freedom to decide if the new features are worth paying for.

Tapbots developer Paul Haddad:

I’d probably be fine with a subscription model, if they degraded nicely. Stop paying, app still works but no more upgrades. That seems fair.

That’s a nice notion, but I’m pretty sure the App Store doesn’t allow for that and never will. A nice side effect of paid downloads is that you, the user, can keep using an old version of an app until it technically no longer runs, because of an OS update or something like that (e.g. a PowerPC binary that no longer runs on Intel-based Macs — a scenario that could happen again if Apple starts putting ARM chips in Macs). With software-as-a-service, when you stop paying for the service, you don’t get to keep using the current version of the app — or if it’s a freemium model, you don’t get to keep using the non-free features that were previously enabled via the subscription.

I can see why some people don’t like this. I personally have a few not-the-latest-version apps that I’m glad still work for me. But this is the way the software economy is moving. Nobody expects a subscription web app/service to continue working if you stop paying for it. With Adobe and Microsoft leading the way, that’s the way the economics of app development are shifting too. 


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