Apple Appears to Be in a Standoff With South Korea Over New App Store Regulations 

Reuters:

Apple Inc was on a collision course with South Korea on Friday over new requirements that it stop forcing app developers to use its payment systems, with a government official warning of a possible investigation into the iPhone maker’s compliance. […]

The law went into effect last month but Apple had told the South Korean government that it was already complying and did not need to change its app store policy, a Korea Communications Commission (KCC) official in charge of the matter told Reuters.

“This goes against the purpose of the amended law,” the official said, requesting anonymity as the KCC was still in talks with Apple on compliance. […]

Google had informed the KCC that it planned to comply with the law, including allowing third-party payment systems, and would discuss the matter with the regulator starting next week, the KCC official said.

Apple telling South Korea that they’re already in compliance reminds of the “I told them we’ve already got one” bit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Safari 15 Watch: Favorites Bar Edition 

Jason Snell, Six Colors:

And then macOS Monterey beta 10 dropped this week, and would you look at this:

Yep, that’s the Safari Favorites Bar, now located above the tabs.

Apple similarly moved the Favorites Bar above the tabs in Safari on iPadOS 15.1 beta 4, too.

The full Bookmarks menu on iPad, alas, still remains hidden in the sidebar. That’s a weird one. In the initial WWDC previews, the Bookmarks toolbar button was removed in Safari on both iOS and iPadOS. In the late summer redesign of Safari 15 for iOS, the Bookmarks toolbar button (which you tap to access a hierarchical menu showing all your bookmarks, and which, crucially, remembers which folder you were in the next time you use it) was back where it belongs: in Safari’s bottom-of-the-screen toolbar.

Yet on iPad — which has much more room for toolbar buttons than iPhone — Bookmarks are still squirreled away in the sidebar that is primarily intended for creating, managing, and switching between Tab Groups. Tab Groups are a clever and I think useful new feature. Bookmarks do not belong over there though. Worse, every time you use the Bookmarks menu over in the sidebar on iPadOS 15, you have to navigate from the root level of your bookmarks each time. It doesn’t remember which folder you were in.

Here’s hoping that more changes to Safari 15 are coming, on both Mac and iPad.

Microsoft’s ‘Fluent’ Emoji Set 

Keith Broni, writing for Emojipedia:

Microsoft users subscribed to the Windows Insiders program can now install beta build introducing the much-anticipated new Fluent emoji set.

It is under-remarked upon just how much better Apple’s emoji are than everyone else’s. Related factoid: Apple’s emoji went through the great post-iOS 7 flattening and de-texturizing of user interfaces without being flattened or de-texturized.

IBM Will Follow Biden Vaccine Order, Defying Texas Ban 

Clara Molot, reporting for Bloomberg:*

International Business Machines Corp. said it will follow President Joe Biden’s mandate requiring that employees be vaccinated against Covid-19, overriding an order from the Texas governor Monday blocking such actions.

“IBM is a federal contractor and must comply with federal requirements, which direct employees of federal contractors to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 by December 8th or obtain a medical or religious accommodation,” a spokesperson for the New York-based company said. “We will continue to protect the health and safety of IBM employees and clients, and we will continue to follow federal requirements.”

More like this, please.

* You know.

Must Be in the Front Row 

Wonderful profile of Milwaukee Brewers legend Bob Uecker — 87 and going strong in the broadcast booth — by Adam McCalvy for MLB.com:

It’s been like this in Milwaukee forever. When Uecker joined the Brewers’ radio team in 1971, he was only four years removed from playing the final season of a Major League career that spanned the Milwaukee Braves, the Phillies and then the Atlanta Braves. Then-Brewers owner Bud Selig originally hired Uecker as a scout, but it was a failed enterprise. Selig swears that he once received a scouting report in the mail from Uecker that was smeared with mashed potatoes and gravy.

Leaked Promotional Shots of HTC’s New AR/VR Headset 

Speaking of forthcoming AR/VR headsets, Evan “Evleaks” Blass has leaked a slew of marketing images for the apparently imminent HTC Vive Flow. Looks cool, in a Nite Owl sort of way. The future’s going to be weird if these things go mainstream, though.

Update: Does seem kind of suboptimal, to say the least, that it has a fan.

Magic Leap Somehow Raises Another $500 Million in Funding 

Kim Lyons, reporting for The Verge:

Magic Leap has raised $500 million in funding and is preparing to release a new AR headset, the Magic Leap 2, next year, the company announced Monday. The headset will be generally available next year, the company said, and “select customers” are using it as part of an early access program.

CEO Peggy Johnson said in a statement that with the new funding “Magic Leap will have greater financial flexibility and the resources needed to continue our growth trajectory as we expand on our industry-leading AR technology.” She revealed the new device in an Monday appearance on CNBC.

I can’t believe this company still exists, let alone is convincing investors to give them more money.

LoveFrom Unveils a Teaser Website 

Beautiful, simple (purely typographic), elegantly animated, and well written. But, well, it’s really just a statement.

Reload for many — seriously, many — comma animations, each delightful.

More at Wallpaper from Sarah Douglas, including details on LoveFrom Serif, the firm’s bespoke typeface.


Apple Watch Series 7

Caring — really caring — about watches is a mixed blessing. It’s a fun hobby. It’s also a curse. You notice little things. Really little things. And if those minute details please you, they bring you joy. But when they annoy you, even just one little thing can ruin an entire watch for you. Most people buying a new watch don’t really care about the minute details. But that doesn’t mean those minute details don’t matter. The affection a particular watch engenders is the result of all those details, regardless of whether the beholder notices any of them in particular.

At a glance, all Apple Watches — from the original “Series 0” in 2015 to the new Series 7 models shipping this week — have more or less looked the same. Unlike any other product Apple has ever made, they really nailed the basic shape and look, the gestalt, on the first try. It was birthed as an iconic design.

Give them more than a glance though, and you can spot a significant evolutionary schism between Series 0–3 and Series 4–6. With Series 4, the displays went round-cornered (à la the iPhone X, and subsequent iPad Pros), which, side-by-side, makes the square-cornered displays on the Series 3 and prior look crude in comparison. (This is one reason it’s such a shame that the Series 3 remains the entry-level $200 model.) Apple did its best to hide this crudeness in the early years of WatchOS, by using black backgrounds exclusively on nearly all of the then-available watch faces.1 Because Apple Watch has always used OLED displays, and OLED blacks are utterly black, a watch face with a black background effectively disguises the border between the display and its surrounding black bezel.

The Series 4–6 display wasn’t just more graceful, with its round corners, but also just plain bigger. That’s the first thing any observer would notice about the Series 4 through 6 models compared to the Series 0 through 3. But look carefully and you can see a clear difference in the case shapes, too. The Series 0–3 cases were like rectangular boxes with round sides and corners; the Series 4 introduced a new case shape that defies easy description. It was more capsule-like, more elliptical. More organic, like a water-worn pebble. The three-dimensional equivalent of the way that iOS (and, sadly, now Mac) app icons are not simple roundrects, but in fact super elliptical squircles. Another example: the fascinating shape of the iPhone X notch.

You don’t have to care deeply about the details of these shapes. Most people don’t. But designers at Apple do, because that’s the job of a designer: not just to sweat the little details but to really sweat them. But I think even a casual observer would notice the change in case shape between Series 3 and 4, if you pointed it out to them. Apple Watch was born rounded, but got more rounded (and more complexly rounded) with Series 4.

Which brings us to Series 7.

The knock on Series 7 is that there’s nothing new but a bigger display. But it’s a much bigger display. It’s the one new thing that everyone will notice, and it’s very noticeable. Nothing new but a bigger display is enough to establish Series 7 as a landmark new design. This graphic from Apple’s “Compare” page for Apple Watch is, to my eyes, very fair. (The Apple Watch SE is, effectively, a Series 6 without the always-on display and ECG and blood oxygen sensors. It’s the lack of an always-on display that, in my opinion, retards the SE.)

Screenshot from Apple’s Apple Watch Compare page, showing the Series 7, SE, and Series 3 watches side-by-side, all of them displaying the Maps app.

The thing most people will not notice, at least not by merely looking at the Series 7 next to a Series 4–6 (or SE), is that the case shape is all new too. It’s ever so slightly bigger; hence the change in description from 44 / 40 mm to 45 / 41 mm, respectively, for the larger / smaller models. These sizes represent the heights of the watch cases, not the display sizes. The Series 7 watch cases are slightly wider, too, by about 1 mm.

1 mm is a minor difference by the scale of most devices. A new MacBook or iPad that grew by one single millimeter in height and width would be hard to notice. It might be barely noticeable for a phone. But 1 mm is a meaningful difference at watch scale. The Series 7 watch sits slightly bigger on the wrist. It’s a subtle difference, to be sure, but it is noticeable. This is neither a complaint nor a compliment. You might like the bigger presence on your wrist, or you might not. It is different though. And because every other Apple product’s “size” is determined by the display, not the case, many people might assume — wrongly — that the changes from 44 to 45 mm and 40 to 41 mm are only about fitting larger displays into the same size cases. With Series 7, the displays are a lot bigger; but the cases are a little bigger too.

So too with the watch faces on Series 7. They’re all slightly bigger, not merely scaled to fill the bigger displays but redrawn to properly accommodate the bigger displays. To be in accordance; to be proportionally precise. This changes the character of the existing watch faces in subtle ways. My go-to watch face has been unchanged since 2015: Utility, with no numeric indexes. My first few days wearing the Series 7, my gut reaction was less that the watch itself had grown too large, but rather that the Utility watch dial had grown too large. Now, one week in, I’ve grown used to it. I needed time to adjust. Everything is bigger on the Series 7 watch faces, including the complications.

A couple of subtle details regarding the new display. The way that the outer edges of the display extend under the curves of the crystal is attractive. It’s a neat refractive effect. There’s no utility to it; it just looks cool. But it also means WatchOS app developers need to consider a new set of “safe area” layout guidelines. As per Apple’s developer documentation, buttons and images should extend to the very edges of the display, but text should not. The Series 7 always-on display mode is noticeably brighter than on my personal Series 5 watch — the first Apple Watch that offered an always-on mode.

A new feature exclusive to Series 7 is a QWERTY on-screen keyboard. I found this keyboard very frustrating to use. If you’re a swipe-typer on iPhone — I’m not — you might find it more useful, but if I need to enter text on my watch, I still find it way faster and way more accurate to dictate by voice. If I could disable this QWERTY keyboard, I would. The text entry user interface is better on the Series 4–6 watches because they don’t waste so much space with this too-small keyboard. And I’m using a 45 mm Series 7; I can only imagine how finicky the keyboard is on the 41 mm models.

With the slightly bigger cases and significantly bigger displays, for those people who find themselves on the fence between the larger and smaller sizes, more people than ever will prefer the smaller 41 mm size. With the original Series 0–3 form factor, it felt like the 42 mm size was “regular” and the 38 mm was “small”. That evened out with the Series 4–6 form factor. With Series 7, I suspect the 41 mm size will seem “regular” and the 45 mm will seem “large”. (I use the verb suspect here because I haven’t seen a 41 mm Series 7 in person yet.)2

Apple sent me the aluminum green Series 7, along with the green Solo Loop and Leather Link bands. I particularly like it on the Leather Link band, which is among my favorite straps Apple has made to date. The green leather has a sort of matte finish that pairs nicely with the non-glossy aluminum finish. The anodized green aluminum is really dark — much darker in person than Apple’s product photography would suggest. It plays as black or near-black in most lighting conditions. I like this green watch much more in person than from how it looks on Apple’s website — because it is so dark. If you’re hoping for a more verdant green, though, you might be disappointed. I highly suggest looking at — and trying on — the new watches in person, even if you’re already an Apple Watch owner.

For existing Apple Watch owners, there are very few reasons to consider buying a Series 7 other than the reasons why anyone ever buys a new watch: because you like the way it looks. Apple Watch is a watch that happens to be a computer, not a computer that you happen to wear on your wrist. Evaluate the upgrade decision like you would a computer or even a phone and you’re missing the point.3

Seven generations in, it seems clear that Apple has pursued a consistent Platonic ideal for Apple Watch from the start, in terms of its shape, size, and display. Series 4 was a major refinement, with significant changes that brought Apple Watch quite close to that ideal. Series 7 is a minor refinement, not major, but that’s because the Series 4 redesign got Apple Watch so close to what it was meant to be from the outset. Perhaps someday Apple will release an altogether re-imagined Apple Watch — a new ideal. But perhaps not. Apple Watch has always known what it wanted to be, and Series 7 is closer to that than ever. 


  1. The Photos watch face was the notable exception, and my understanding is that there was much debate within Apple as to whether to ship that watch face with the original Apple Watch. On the one side were those who wanted all of the watch faces to have black backgrounds, to maintain the illusion that disguised the display’s actual edges. Also, to maintain complete control of every pixel on every watch face. On the other side were those who argued that many people always use photos of their family and loved ones as their “background” on every device they use, and they’d demand them for their watches, too. Not offering a Photos watch face would be like not allowing custom wallpapers on iOS or desktops on MacOS. (This would not have been unprecedented: the original iPhone shipped without any choices for wallpaper — you got a black home screen background and you liked it.) Apple obviously did ship the Photos watch face with the original watch, and has since improved upon it with the new Portraits face, but the overall mindset that watch faces ought to be designed by Apple, that they should all be in accordance with and representative of the Apple Watch brand, is the main reason why WatchOS still doesn’t and likely never will support third-party watch faces. ↩︎

  2. Watch straps and bands from the original 2015 models continue to fit the new Series 7 perfectly, and look right at home. That’s really something. ↩︎︎

  3. The new faster charging is a nice purely-technical improvement, though. If you charge your watch overnight, it’s no big deal. But if you wear your watch to sleep — whether for sleep tracking purposes or just to be able to check the time if you wake up mid-sleep — faster charging is meaningful. ↩︎︎


Apple Event Next Monday: ‘Unleashed’ 

Jason Snell, Six Colors:

It’s official: there will be another Apple media event this fall, and it’s Monday, Oct. 18 at 10 Pacific.

New MacBook Pro models are likely to be the star of the show. We’ll have full coverage on Six Colors, as always. Myke Hurley and I will offer post-event coverage after it’s all said and done, live on Relay FM.

The event name is “Unleashed”, and the motif is a take on going into warp drive or hyperspace. Greg Joswiak, on Twitter:

Unleashed! These next six days are going to speed by.

You don’t need to be Kreskin to predict that new pro Macs powered by high-performance Apple silicon will be the main attraction. It seems like a surefire bet that we’ll see the new 16- and 14-inch MacBook Pros. I hope we see the new full-size iMacs — 30-inch displays, perhaps? — too. My other hope: MacBook Pros in black or near-black.

The slightly weird thing about the event is that it’s on a Monday — Apple generally holds events on Tuesdays. Looking at my notes, I think the last time Apple held an event on a Monday (excepting WWDC keynotes, which of course are always on Monday mornings) was the original iPhone SE event, which was on Monday, 21 March 2016. They might have held that one a day early because the next day was Apple’s courtroom showdown with the FBI regarding the San Bernardino gun massacre.

Why hold next week’s event on Monday instead of Tuesday? My only spitball: because Google already announced its fall Pixel event for Tuesday.

‘Twenty Bits I Learned About Making Fonts’ 

Lovely little book by my old friend and budding typographer Dan Cederholm. A fine sequel and companion to his Twenty Bits I Learned About Design, Business & Community. Get the hardcover editions, they’re worth it.

The Continuing Bizarre Decline in Science Reporting at The New York Times 

From an editors’ note appended to a New York Times report over the weekend, about COVID-19 vaccinations for children:

An earlier version of this article incorrectly described actions taken by regulators in Sweden and Denmark. They have halted use of the Moderna vaccine in children; they have not begun offering single doses. The article also misstated the number of Covid hospitalizations in U.S. children. It is more than 63,000 from August 2020 to October 2021, not 900,000 since the beginning of the pandemic.

The report is from Apoorva Mandavilli, the reporter who replaced longtime science reporter Donald McNeil on the Times’s COVID beat — the same reporter who last month approvingly quoted an epidemiologist who was against booster shots for adults on the nonsensical grounds that “the added benefit may be minimal — and obtained just as easily by wearing a mask, or avoiding indoor dining and crowded bars.”

The difference between 63,000 and 900,000 hospitalized children is not a small error — it’s more than an order of magnitude difference. If nearly a million U.S. children had been hospitalized from COVID-19, our entire perception of this pandemic would be fundamentally different. How did this error even make it past editing? It’s not even a remotely plausible figure given our lived experience of this pandemic.

Here’s a good example of how mind-boggling this error is. The median household income in the U.S. is about $68,000. Imagine if The New York Times ran a story about economic policy which stated that the average household income in the U.S. was $900,000. That’s preposterous. Yet that’s exactly how bad the science reporting at the Times has gotten — an error of that magnitude regarding a crucial COVID statistic went into print.

Daring Fireball Weekly Sponsorships for Q4 

Speaking of DF weekly sponsorships, there are just three remaining openings in the October-December quarter. Plus, this coming week’s spot, starting Monday, remains open.

One sponsor per week, with a sponsor-written entry in the RSS feed to start the week, a thank-you post right on the homepage from me at the end, and the one and only graphic ad on every page of the site all week long. No tracking or other privacy-invasive bullshit. Just plain honest ads. That’s not new — that’s the way the ads on DF have always been. My best argument that they work: the number of repeat companies in the sponsor archive list. So if you’ve got a product or service you’d like to promote to DF’s discerning audience, I’d love to have you as a sponsor. And if you’re ready to grab next week’s opening, let’s go.

Copilot 

My thanks to Copilot for sponsoring last week at DF. Copilot is a personal finance tool whose only goal is to give you a bird’s-eye view of your finances, without compromising your privacy. I started using it when they booked this sponsorship, and I love it. It’s really easy to add your accounts — banks, credit cards, investments — and the UI is clear, useful, and attractive. Whether you’re interested in tracking your net worth, monthly spending, or investment returns, Copilot can do it all.

Use the code DARING when starting an in-app subscription to double Copilot’s usual one-month free trial, and see for yourself why they have a 4.8 rating in the App Store. Learn more and get started.

Ben Sandofsky on iPhone Macro Photography and Halide 2.5 

Ben Sandofsky, writing for the Halide blog:

The iPhone 13 Pro features a new camera capable of focusing closer than ever before — less than an inch away. This opens a whole new dimension for iPhone photographers, but it’s not without surprises. Let’s take a tour of what this lens unlocks, some clever details you might miss in its implementation, why its “automatic” nature can catch you off guard, and much more. At the end, we have a special surprise for you — especially those not using an iPhone 13 Pro.

I’ll spoil it: Halide 2.5 adds a nifty macro mode for all recent iPhones, not just the iPhone 13 Pro. But of course, it works best on the iPhone 13 Pro, where it offers manual control over focus distance — useful for macro situations like trying to focus on a window pane instead of through it.

Apple Files Appeal in Epic Games Case to Stay Anti-Steering Injunction 

Kif Leswing, reporting last night for CNBC:

Apple filed a notice of appeal in the Epic Games case and is asking for a stay on the injunction that lets developers add in-app links to payment websites, according to company representatives and documents filed on Friday.

If Apple wins the stay, which will be decided by a judge in November, a rule change potentially allowing developers to circumvent App Store fees of 15% to 30% may not take effect until appeals in the case have finished, a process that could take years.

Apple won everything in the case but that one point, but they’d like to win that point too.

Rob Enderle, Still Kicking, Still Jackassing 

From a Yahoo News story that’s as insipid as you suspect it is from the headline (“Decade After Jobs’ Death, Has Apple Traded Magic for Profit?”):

But are these game-changing innovations in the post-Jobs era?

“Apple lost the ability to bring out products that could revolutionize a market,” said Tech industry analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle Group. “They became a financially-focused company very effective at milking its faithful users,” he added.

Enderle, in May 2015 — mere weeks after Apple Watch shipped — declared it “obsolete” and a month later called it a “failure”.

Keep in mind I linked earlier today to a survey that suggests 30 percent of U.S. teenagers now wear an Apple Watch.

Michael Dell Claims Steve Jobs Tried to License Rhapsody to Dell in 1997 

CNet’s Connie Guglielmo, writing about a bit from Michael Dell’s new autobiography, Play Nice But Win:

In 1997, Jobs rejoined a struggling Apple after it acquired Next for $429 million, and he pitched Dell on another business proposal (as Jobs was evaluating Apple’s Mac clone licensing project, which he ultimately shut down). Jobs and his team had ported the Mac software, based on Next’s Mach operating system, and had it running on the Intel x86 chips that powered Dell PCs. Jobs offered to license the Mac OS to Dell, telling him he could give PC buyers a choice of Apple’s software or Microsoft’s Windows OS installed on their machine.

“He said, look at this — we’ve got this Dell desktop and it’s running Mac OS,” Dell tells me. “Why don’t you license the Mac OS?”

I’m not saying Dell is lying, but the timeline on this doesn’t add up. In 1997, Mac OS X hadn’t even been conceived yet. In the ink-was-still-drying period after the Apple-NeXT reunification in late 1996, the next-gen OS based on NeXTStep was codenamed “Rhapsody”, and, well, it wasn’t in any shape to be licensed to anyone in 1997. Apple itself didn’t ship anything based on NeXT’s software until Mac OS X Server in 1999 and the subsequent “developer previews” — releases that still used the classic Mac OS Platinum appearance. (Which looked pretty good.) If Rhapsody wasn’t ready for Apple customers in 1997 (or 1998!) how in the world was it going to work for Dell customers?

To me it just sounds like Michael Dell spinning up a tale that makes it seem as though Dell has been the least bit relevant in the last 25 years.

Dell thought it was a great idea and told Jobs he’d pay a licensing fee for every PC sold with the Mac OS. But Jobs had a counteroffer: He was worried that licensing scheme might undermine Apple’s own Mac computer sales because Dell computers were less costly. Instead, Dell says, Jobs suggested he just load the Mac OS alongside Windows on every Dell PC and let customers decide which software to use — and then pay Apple for every Dell PC sold. […]

Dell smiles when he tells the story. “The royalty he was talking about would amount to hundreds of millions of dollars, and the math just didn’t work, because most of our customers, especially larger business customers, didn’t really want the Mac operating system,” he writes. “Steve’s proposal would have been interesting if it was just us saying, “OK, we’ll pay you every time we use the Mac OS” — but to pay him for every time we didn’t use it … well, nice try, Steve!”

Now that sounds like Steve Jobs.

Things Support for Markdown 

Cultured Code’s renowned to-do app Things added support for Markdown back in August. It’s really well done. You might think that as the creator of Markdown, that I’m in favor of seeing it in use everywhere. That is wrong. In fact, in recent years I think Markdown is in use in far too many places where something truly WYSIWYG is called for.

Things does Markdown right. It doesn’t hide the Markdown formatting characters, it just styles them. Effectively, the notes field for tasks in Things is still just plain text. It’s just styled nicely if you write that plain text in Markdown. That’s the right way to do Markdown. Don’t hide the formatting characters; just style/color them.

Nano-Chromatic Wallpapers 

New iPhone? Looking for new wallpaper? Basic Apple Guy has a nifty new one.

True story: I put the dark version of this wallpaper on my iPhone 13 Pro review unit. My son came into my office, saw my lock screen, and commented that he had the same wallpaper installed. I had never once steered his attention in the direction of Basic Apple Guy. Just pure serendipity and similar taste.

Piper Sandler Survey Claims 87 Percent of U.S. Teens Carry iPhones, 30 Percent Wear an Apple Watch 

Philip Elmer-DeWitt:

From a note to clients by analyst Harsh Kumar that landed on my desktop Tuesday:

Apple’s share of smartphone ownership remains near record highs in Piper Sandler’s Taking Stock with Teens Fall 2021 survey (here). Of the ~10,000 respondents, 87% have an iPhone, which is slightly below the 88% record set in the Spring 2021 survey. In addition, the iPhone could return to record highs due to the 88% purchase intention among teens. […]

A record 30% of teens own an Apple Watch in the Fall 2021 survey. Apple also has 86% market share among teen smart watch owners.

Larissa Faw, writing for Forbes in January 2013:

Ultimately, in the eyes of today’s youth, massive popularity has watered down Apple’s coolness. “Teens are telling us Apple is done,” says Tina Wells of the youth marketing agency Buzz Marketing Group. “Apple has done a great job of embracing Gen X and older [Millennials], but I don’t think they are connecting with Millennial kids. [They’re] all about Surface tablets/laptops and Galaxy.”

Here’s a link (PDF) to the actual survey.

‎Achoo: HTML Source Viewer for iOS Safari 15 

Speaking of nifty new Safari extensions from Christian Selig, Achoo is an iOS 15 Safari extension that gives you a good “View Source” command for inspecting (and editing) the code for any web page. $1, cheap!

The AnandTech A15 SoC Performance Review 

Andrei Frumusanu, writing for AnandTech:

In the GPU side, Apple’s peak performance improvements are off the charts, with a combination of a new larger GPU, new architecture, and the larger system cache that helps both performance as well as efficiency.

Apple’s iPhone component design seems to be limiting the SoC from achieving even better results, especially the newer Pro models, however even with that being said and done, Apple remains far above the competition in terms of performance and efficiency.

Overall, while the A15 isn’t the brute force iteration we’ve become used to from Apple in recent years, it very much comes with substantial generational gains that allow it to be a notably better SoC than the A14. In the end, it seems like Apple’s SoC team has executed well after all.

A thorough review, as usual. Interesting to contrast with Dylan Patel’s much-publicized “Apple CPU Gains Grind to a Halt and the Future Looks Dim” hot take last month, just after the Apple event. The A15 seems more about efficiency — and thus extending battery life — than going faster, but it does go faster, too.

Paddle In-App Purchase for iOS 

Paddle:

The Epic Games v. Apple verdict clears the way for app creators to choose an alternative to Apple’s payment system (and its 15-30% fee!). But choose the wrong provider and you’ll be burdened with managing payment and subscription logic, taxes, fraud, and buyer support.

Paddle In-App Purchase will let app creators replace Apple’s In-App Purchase without worrying about any of that.

Paddle is charging a 10 percent commission for transactions under $10, and 5 percent plus $0.50 per transaction at or above $10.

It’s unclear to me exactly how Paddle’s SDK works. They’re calling it “in-app purchase”, but it sounds like it redirects to Paddle’s website in Safari (or whatever your default browser on iOS is). If it redirects to a website, I think it might be allowed; if they’re processing transactions in-app, it’s not going to be allowed.

iOS 15 and Google AMP 

Jeff Johnson:

For the past several days at least, Google search results have not included AMP links on iOS 15, but they still include AMP links on iOS 14. I’ve determined that Safari’s User-Agent makes the difference. (You can spoof the User-Agent on iOS using the Safari web inspector on macOS.) […]

Important Update: I’ve received a statement from Danny Sullivan, Google’s public search liaison: “It’s a bug specific to iOS 15 that we’re working on. We expect it will be resolved soon.”

What a weird bug. It’s made weirder by the (I think) coincidence that there are a bunch of popular new extensions for Safari that redirect AMP links to regular non-AMP web pages. I’ve used all three of these extensions, and they’re all great:

  • StopTheMadness — Johnson’s own $8 extension, that offers a whole bunch of functionality to block shitty website behavior.

  • Amplosion — $3 extension from Apollo developer Christian Selig. Wins for best icon for sure.

  • Overamped — $2 extension from Joseph Duffy. Simple and focused.

From the DF archive, January 2017: “The Problem With AMP”.

ActiveTab: $2 Safari Extension That Highlights the Active Tab 

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry that this is a thing.

Generalissimo Francisco Franco Still Dead; iPadOS Still Has No Weather App 

MG Siegler:

Yes, I know there is no shortage of third party weather apps. Some of them are great. But the devil is always in the defaults. And that default Weather widget is about to land on tens of millions of iPad screens with the launch of iPad OS 15 this fall. And with that, Apple will be sending tens of millions of dollars (maybe more?) indirectly to weather.com — which, incidentially is now owned by IBM. Insert the Steve Jobs giving the finger image here.

Do weather.com executives hold some sort of blackmail on the iPad OS dev team within Apple? I can’t come up with a better explanation.

The whole situation is bizarre. Apple just redid the Weather app in iOS 15 to be more beautiful. And the widgets reflect that. And they throw it all in the trash compactor when it comes time to drill down on the iPad.

The lack of a built-in iPad Weather app was a little weird before, but now that they have a built-in Weather widget that, when you tap it, takes you to The Weather Channel’s janky-assed website, it’s downright bizarre.

Jony Ive on Steve Jobs 

Jony Ive, in a remembrance of his friend for The Wall Street Journal (News+):

I loved how he saw the world. The way he thought was profoundly beautiful.

He was without doubt the most inquisitive human I have ever met. His insatiable curiosity was not limited or distracted by his knowledge or expertise, nor was it casual or passive. It was ferocious, energetic and restless. His curiosity was practiced with intention and rigor.

Many of us have an innate predisposition to be curious. I believe that after a traditional education, or working in an environment with many people, curiosity is a decision requiring intent and discipline.

In larger groups our conversations gravitate towards the tangible, the measurable. It is more comfortable, far easier and more socially acceptable talking about what is known. Being curious and exploring tentative ideas were far more important to Steve than being socially acceptable.

Our curiosity begs that we learn. And for Steve, wanting to learn was far more important than wanting to be right.

Apple: ‘Celebrating Steve’ 

10 years after his death, Apple has a nice short film — effectively narrated by Jobs himself — on its home page, along with a beautiful little statement from Jobs’s family.

Pretty big dent in the universe.

30-Second Night Sky Exposure on iPhone 13 Pro 

John Kraus:

I took the ProRAW file into Lightroom CC on the iPhone. Amazed at the detail I was able to extract. Wow!

Wow, indeed.

Understanding How Facebook Disappeared From the Internet 

Tom Strickx and Celso Martinho, writing for the Cloudflare blog:

“Facebook can’t be down, can it?”, we thought, for a second.

Today at 1651 UTC, we opened an internal incident entitled “Facebook DNS lookup returning SERVFAIL” because we were worried that something was wrong with our DNS resolver 1.1.1.1.  But as we were about to post on our public status page we realized something else more serious was going on.

Social media quickly burst into flames, reporting what our engineers rapidly confirmed too. Facebook and its affiliated services WhatsApp and Instagram were, in fact, all down. Their DNS names stopped resolving, and their infrastructure IPs were unreachable. It was as if someone had “pulled the cables” from their data centers all at once and disconnected them from the Internet.

How’s that even possible?

DNS is deep dark stuff, and even at the pidgin level at which Daring Fireball operates, it terrifies me. Can’t even imagine how complicated it is at Facebook’s scale. What a fiasco.

Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram Down Due to DNS Outage 

Sergiu Gatlan, BleepingComputer:

Users worldwide are reporting that they are unable to access Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, instead seeing errors that the sites can’t be reached.

When attempting to open any of the three sites, they are given DNS_PROBE_FINISHED_NXDOMAIN errors and advised to check if there is a typo in the domain entered in the address bar.

DNS, man. Wheeee!

Company That Routes Billions of Text Messages Quietly Says It Was Hacked 

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai, reporting for Motherboard:

A company that is a critical part of the global telecommunications infrastructure used by AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon and several others around the world such as Vodafone and China Mobile, quietly disclosed that hackers were inside its systems for years, impacting more than 200 of its clients and potentially millions of cellphone users worldwide.

The company, Syniverse, revealed in a filing dated September 27 with the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission that an unknown “individual or organization gained unauthorized access to databases within its network on several occasions, and that login information allowing access to or from its Electronic Data Transfer (EDT) environment was compromised for approximately 235 of its customers.”

For a moment I thought, 235 customers — that’s not too bad. Then I realized that Syniverse’s “customers” are entire carriers, not individual people. So, yeah, this is bad.

Syniverse repeatedly declined to answer specific questions from Motherboard about the scale of the breach and what specific data was affected, but according to a person who works at a telephone carrier, whoever hacked Syniverse could have had access to metadata such as length and cost, caller and receiver’s numbers, the location of the parties in the call, as well as the content of SMS text messages. […]

The company wrote that it discovered the breach in May 2021, but that the hack began in May of 2016.

Not what you want.

The Problem With ‘The Problem With Jon Stewart’ 

John Jurgensen, writing for The Wall Street Journal (News+):

Now he’s attempting to re-engage with a show that offers fewer jokes and a more earnest agenda. With his new biweekly series, “The Problem With Jon Stewart,” his first challenge is getting people to notice it at all. Apple TV+ is decidedly more plush but less entrenched than basic cable.

Fans will find aspects of “The Problem With Jon Stewart” familiar. In front of an audience, he sits at a table for an opening monologue (now wearing a T-shirt and bomber jacket instead of a suit and tie). He twirls his pen, pauses for deadpan stares into the camera, stifles giggles behind his fist and makes self-deprecating cracks like, “I am what’s left of Jon Stewart.”

Breaking from his previous format, the show includes unscripted segments in the show’s writers’ room, where Mr. Stewart and his staff banter over each episode’s topic (expanded on in a weekly companion podcast). A separate panel discussion captures the show’s sober tone.

I watched the first episode and was bored to tears. I certainly sympathize with the plight of U.S. veterans who’ve been gravely harmed by the burning of toxic waste, but the show itself felt like a droll hour-long lecture — not a good sign when the show was in fact only 40 minutes long. Strong “When is this going to be over?” vibes. It was like being stuck back in school.

I’m not saying Stewart can or should only do comedy. I like serious issue-based shows, too, but the good ones, like 60 Minutes, move along at a fast clip. John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight devotes itself to the most serious issues in the world today, but the show is entertaining, fast-paced, and funny as hell. It moves. The premiere of The Problem With Jon Stewart can only be described as “plodding”. I’ll give it another shot this week, but one more like last week’s and I’m out.

Kevin Roose: ‘Facebook Is Weaker Than We Knew’ 

Kevin Roose’s take on the inside look at Facebook revealed by The Wall Street Journal’s “Facebook Files” series, which in turn is based on Frances Haugen’s whistleblower leaks:

It’s far too early to declare Facebook dead. The company’s stock price has risen nearly 30 percent in the past year, lifted by strong advertising revenue and a spike in use of some products during the pandemic. Facebook is still growing in countries outside the United States, and could succeed there even if it stumbles domestically. And the company has invested heavily in newer initiatives, like augmented and virtual reality products, that could turn the tide if they’re successful.

But Facebook’s research tells a clear story, and it’s not a happy one. Its younger users are flocking to Snapchat and TikTok, and its older users are posting anti-vaccine memes and arguing about politics. Some Facebook products are actively shrinking, while others are merely making their users angry or self-conscious.

Facebook’s declining relevance with young people shouldn’t necessarily make its critics optimistic. History teaches us that social networks rarely age gracefully, and that tech companies can do a lot of damage on the way down.

Frances Haugen, Facebook Whistleblower, on 60 Minutes 

Keith Zubrow, writing for 60 Minutes Overtime:

Haugen stated that some of Facebook’s own research found that “angry content” is more likely to receive engagement, something that content producers and political parties are aware of.

“One of the most shocking pieces of information that I brought out of Facebook that I think is essential to this disclosure is political parties have been quoted, in Facebook’s own research, saying, we know you changed how you pick out the content that goes in the home feed,” said Haugen. “And now if we don’t publish angry, hateful, polarizing, divisive content, crickets. We don’t get anything. And we don’t like this. We know our constituents don’t like this. But if we don’t do these stories, we don’t get distributed. And so it used to be that we did very little of it, and now we have to do a lot of it, because we have jobs to do. And if we don’t get traffic and engagement, we’ll lose our jobs.”

Haugen’s whistleblowing jibes exactly with my theory all along: Facebook prioritizes growth and engagement over all else, and when they discovered that polarizing angering content drives engagement more than anything else, they let it fly. It’s that simple.

Apple Watch Series 7 Orders Start This Friday, and a Bonus Spitball Theory About the Much-Rumored Flat-Sided Design 

Apple Newsroom:

Apple today announced Apple Watch Series 7, featuring the largest and most advanced Apple Watch display ever — and a reengineered Always-On Retina display with significantly more screen area and thinner borders — will be available to order beginning Friday, October 8, at 5 a.m. PDT and available in stores starting Friday, October 15.

So the Series 7 watches are only shipping three weeks after the iPhones 13. Not bad, but let’s see how supply-constrained they are.

While I’m writing about Apple Watch, let me put on the record my theory about the flat-sides industrial design that a slew of rumor guys claimed was coming for Series 7, but in fact, did not. (I put forth this theory on the latest episode of The Talk Show, with guest Jason Snell.)

My guess is that the flat-sided design is real, and it’s making its way through Apple’s supply chain, which is how it leaked. But it clearly was never intended for Series 7 — Series 7 is an altogether different new industrial design. So my theory is that the flat-sided design is for the next-generation Apple Watch SE. The current SE debuted a year ago, alongside the Apple Watch Series 6, so I wouldn’t expect a second-generation SE until, say, April of next year at the earliest, but perhaps more likely a year from now, alongside the Series 8 models.

The problem, from a product marketing perspective, with the existing Apple Watch SE is that it looks exactly like a Series 6. With the iPhones, the SE models always look older — the original SE looked like an iPhone 5/5S (when the new models had moved to the bigger iPhone 6/7/8 sizes), and the second-gen SE looks like an iPhone 6/7/8 (while the new models are now all derived from the iPhone X design).

There is no “old” industrial design for Apple Watch SE to follow that is distinguishable at a mere glance as a lower-cost budget model. The flat-sided look would do that. I’m not saying the flat-sided design would look bad, per se, but I am convinced that — if it ever does ship — it will look more utilitarian. It’s not a premium design. It’s plain.

Quill 

My thanks to Quill for sponsoring this week at DF. Quill is a new messaging app for teams, made by people who love messaging — many of them grew up on IRC. Messaging is their favorite way to collaborate, but not if it’s overwhelming or disorganized. Unlike a lot of messaging platforms — not mentioning any names here — Quill looks great on both iOS and MacOS.

It’s a more deliberate way to chat. Try it for free.

TV Commercial Promoting the New Safari 

“Now, more than ever, Safari is it.”

Facebook in Crisis Mode Amid Wall Street Journal Exposé 

Mike Isaac, Sheera Frenkel, and Ryan Mac, reporting for The New York Times:

But some of Facebook’s containment has at times backfired with its own workers. This week, the company downplayed the internal research that The Journal had partly based its articles on, suggesting that the findings were limited and imprecise. That angered some employees who had worked on the research, three people said. They have congregated on group chats to decry the characterizations as unfair, and some have privately threatened to quit.

That’s what it takes for these researchers to think about quitting Facebook? Their research shows that Facebook is doing harm to society and harm to teenagers, but what makes them threaten to leave is having their work disparaged? What a magnet for sociopaths this company is.

The Talk Show: ‘A Pretty Generic Thing You Stick in a Hole’ 

Jason Snell returns to the show to talk about the new iPhones 13, new iPad Mini, Safari 15’s craptacular new tab UI, and the insightful questions posed to Kevin Durant on the Brooklyn Nets’ media day from Basketball Digest’s best NBA reporter.

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The Tragedy of Safari 15 for Mac’s ‘Tabs’

Our long national iOS 15 Safari nightmare ended last month, praise be, but the lesser of the two bad Safari designs unveiled at WWDC persists and actually shipped: the new tabs in Safari 15 for Mac. Safari 15 on iPad suffers similarly, but it’s the Mac version I’ll concentrate on here.

The most controversial Mac Safari changes shown at WWDC — compressing tabs and the URL location field into a single row at the top of each window, and coloring the entire window with the accent color of the currently frontmost web page — are settings that (thankfully) can be turned off in Safari’s Preferences window (under “Tabs”, natch). The “Compact” layout that puts tabs and the location field in the same row — by using the tabs themselves as the text editing fields for URLs — is, thankfully, off by default. But the “Show color in tab bar” option is on by default:

Screenshot of the default “Tab” preferences for Safari 15.0 on MacOS 11.

Here’s what it looks like as you switch back and forth between tabs with this option on. (Note that I’ve done nothing, explicitly, to support this feature on Daring Fireball.)

Apple, in the “What’s New in Safari” alert that’s shown upon first run after upgrading to Safari 15, describes the new tabs thus:

Redesigned tabs
Tabs have a rounder and more defined appearance and adjust to match the colors of each site, extending your web page to the edge of the window.

This is nonsense. The color matching does not extend web pages at all. It just looks like it does. Who, for example, owns this button?

Screenshot of the top left corner of Defector, with “Show color in tab bar” turned on in Safari 15.

Is that Defector’s button? Or is it Safari’s? It sure as shit looks like it’s Defector’s — but it’s Safari’s. Click that thinking it’s a menu for Defector and you’ll be surprised to be dumped to your Safari Start Page.

I despise the new tabs even when the “Show color in tab bar” and “Compact” layout settings are turned off. They don’t look like tabs. They look like buttons. Here are four full-window screenshots, in order from worst to best to my liking:

  1. “Compact” tab layout / “Show color in tab bar” on
  2. “Compact” tab layout / “Show color in tab bar” off
  3. “Separate” tab layout / “Show color in tab bar” on
  4. “Separate” layout / “Show color in tab bar” turned off

The “Separate” layout, with “Show color in tab bar” off, is the closest you can get to Safari’s previous tab design. These new “tabs” waste space because, like buttons, they’re spaced apart. Tabs that look like real-world tabs aren’t just a decorative style. They’re a visual metaphor. My brain likes visual metaphors. It craves them. And my brain is very much comfortable with the particular visual metaphor of tabs in a web browser window. Buttons do not work as a metaphor for multiple documents within a single window. Thus, trying to use the new Safari 15 on Mac (and iPadOS 15, alas), I feel somewhat disoriented working within Safari. I have to think, continuously, about something I have never had to think about since tabbed browsing became a thing almost 20 years ago.1 The design is counterintuitive: What sense does it make that no matter your settings, the active tab is rendered with less contrast between the tab title and the background than background tabs? The active tab should be the one that pops.

Safari actually debuted as a public beta in January 2003 without any support for tabbed browsing (which, humorously, I was OK with — the tab habit hadn’t gotten its grips on me yet), but within a few weeks it had tabs. Apart from that brief weeks-long stint when it debuted as a public beta in 2003, Safari for Mac has always had tabs. And those tabs have always looked like tabs, because why would anyone want to make them look like anything other than tabs? There are certainly a lot of ways to style tabs in a UI. Try different browsers, try different windowing OSes, and you’ll see many different takes on tabs. Even the Safari team at Apple has experimented with various different tab styles — most famously, in 2009, when they put the tabs at the top of the window for Safari 4’s public beta. It was an experiment Apple wound up abandoning, but they didn’t need to — it could have worked well with some tweaking, as I explored in a copiously illustrated post at the time.

Google Chrome — and Chrome-derivatives like Brave and Microsoft Edge — now use tabs-on-top layouts very much like what the Safari team experimented with in 2009. It’s a fine design that confuses no one. They work because they both look like tabs and embrace the tab metaphor.

Not so with Safari 15. Consider a window with two tabs, perhaps both from the same website. A very common scenario, I think it’s fair to say. With Safari 15, it’s almost a guessing game, a coin flip, when you want to determine which tab is active:

Screenshot of a Safari 15 window with two open tabs, in light mode.

It’s even more ambiguous in dark mode:

Screenshot of a Safari 15 window with two open tabs, in dark mode.

In Safari 14 — as well as Safari versions 1–13, and every other browser I’m aware of — there’s never any ambiguity about which tab is active, in either light mode or dark mode:

Screenshot of a Safari 14 window with two open tabs, in light mode.

Screenshot of a Safari 14 window with two open tabs, in dark mode.

There’s no ambiguity because the tabs are visually connected to the rest of the browser chrome, and the browser chrome is rendered in a way to make it visually distinct from the web page content. There’s no ambiguity because the first job of any tab design ought to be to make clear which tab is active. I can’t believe I had to type that sentence. But here we are.

Yes, it gets easier to discern the active tab with more than two tabs in a window, because any confusion as to whether darker or lighter indicates “active” is alleviated by having only one tab shaded differently than the others. But the utter failure of the new Safari tab design with exactly two tabs should have been reason enough to scrap this idea while it was experimental. Replacing an interface that doesn’t require you to think at all with an interface that requires you to think — even a little — is a design sin of the first order. Designs should evolve over time in the other direction.

Does the Safari 15 tab design look cooler, particularly with the default coloring? I say no. I think it’s novel, obviously, but suspect it’s going to get old quickly. But even if you think it looks cool as fuck, that’s not what user interface design is about. A good user interface needs to work first, then worry about looking cool.

The Safari 15 tab design is a blatant violation of Steve Jobs’s oft-cited “Design is how it works” axiom:

Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, “Make it look good!” That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.

If I were preparing a lecture for design students about what Jobs meant, I’d use Safari 14 and 15’s tab designs as examples. If anything, Safari 15 feels like a ginned-up example — too obviously focused solely on how it looks, too obviously callous about how it works. If it hadn’t actually shipped to tens of millions of Mac users as a software update, you’d think it was a straw man example of misguided design.

Functionality? Here’s functionality. In Safari 14, the close tab button is just to the left of each tab’s favicon. In Safari 15, bizarrely, the favicon turns into a close button on hover. First, hiding functionality behind unguessable hover states is a bad idea, but a hallmark of Apple’s current HI team’s fetish for visual minimalism. But turning an icon into a close button? Good god. Guy English, back on June 18:

Safari beta on macOS 12 tabs have a real anti-pattern: the favicon in the tab turns out to be the close tab button on hover. So if you aim at the favicon you’ll close the tab. The only place in the entire OS where clicking an icon will delete the object you were interested in.

It’s hard to express in words how perverse this is. The icon that represents the web page is a destructive button for that web page. Imagine clicking a document icon in the Finder to trash it.

Speaking of close buttons, if you open a dozen or so tabs in a window in Safari 15, the “tabs” shrink to just show the favicons. When this happens, close boxes stop appearing on non-frontmost tabs, even on hover. So how can you close these tabs without first activating them? To close them while they’re not frontmost, you need to hold down the Command key while you move the mouse over them. Guess how many people are going to figure that out? (Not many.) Safari 14 does this too, but because its actual tab tabs are more space efficient, you have to open way more tabs in a window to get to the point where close boxes only appear for non-frontmost tabs while holding down the Command key.

From a usability perspective, every single thing about Safari 15’s tabs is a regression. Everything. It’s a tab design that can only please users who do not use tabs heavily; whereas the old tab design scaled gracefully from “I only open a few tabs at a time” all the way to “I have hundreds of tabs open across multiple windows”. That’s a disgrace. The Safari team literally invented the standard for how tabs work on MacOS. The tabs that are now available in the Finder, Terminal, and optionally in all document-based Mac apps are derived from the design and implementation of Safari’s tabs. Now, Apple has thrown away Safari’s tab design — a tab design that was not just best-of-platform, but arguably best-in-the-whole-damn-world — and replaced it with a design that is both inferior in the abstract, and utterly inconsistent with the standard tabs across the rest of MacOS.

The skin-deep “looks cool, ship it” nature of Safari 15’s tab design is like a fictional UI from a movie or TV show, like Westworld’s foldable tablets or Tony Stark’s systems from Iron Man, where looking cool is the entirety of the design spec. Something designed not by UI designers but by graphic designers, with no thought whatsoever to the affordances, consistencies, and visual hierarchies essential to actual usability. Just what looks cool. This new tab design shows a complete disregard for the familiarity users have with Safari’s existing tab design. Apple never has been and should not be a company that avoids change at all cost. But proper change — change that breaks users’ habits and expectations — is only justifiable when it’s an improvement. Change for change’s sake alone is masturbatory. That with Safari 15 it actually makes usability worse, solely for flamboyant cosmetic reasons, is downright perverse.

Safari debuted in 2003 as the only major browser on Mac OS X with a first-class Mac interface.2 It remains the only major browser with a truly native Mac interface 18 years later. Safari hasn’t just been a Mac-assed Mac app, it’s been one of the best Mac apps, period — the sort of app UI designers turn to when they need to study how a proper Mac app implements something in its interface.

As someone who depends upon my web browser and relishes Mac apps that do things the Macintosh way, I’m angry. But I can only imagine how furious the WebKit team at Apple is. Safari is the app and WebKit is the rendering engine, but from a practical perspective they’re one and the same, because — again — Safari is the only major WebKit browser for the Mac. Not because there couldn’t be other great Mac WebKit browsers, but because Safari has been so good as a Mac app for so long, it left no room for a third-party Mac WebKit browser to gain traction.

The team that came up with these Safari redesigns shown at WWDC almost destroyed iOS Safari. Apple changed course over the summer and avoided that disaster. But though good design sense prevailed and iOS Safari was spared, the same design team has been allowed to disfigure Mac (and iPad) Safari. It’s one thing when a bad UI design ships in a new or obscure Mac app from Apple; it’s another thing altogether for what’s almost certainly, by any measure, the single most-used app on the platform.

Web developers argue endlessly about the underlying differences in capabilities of rendering engines. Users don’t think like that, though. They just want to use a browser that works, and that feels familiar and gets out of their way. Safari 15 for Mac is the opposite — it is unfamiliar and in your face.

Safari 15 for Mac is a tragic own goal — a de facto gift to Chrome and its growing browser hegemony. The option to turn off “Show color in tab bar” is an admittedly appreciated glass of ice water in hell. But true relief from the boiling hot sun of these craptacular “tabs” is just a download away. Google could and should run ads targeting Safari users, with a simple welcoming message: Switch to Chrome, the Mac browser where tabs look like tabs. 


  1. I decided to check on this, and I’m glad I did. Tabbed browsing didn’t go mainstream until after the year 2000, but there were tabbed browsers as early as 1994, in a Windows web browser named NetCaptor written by Adam Stiles. Look closely for the tabs in those screenshots — they’re at the bottom of the windows. ↩︎

  2. The team behind Camino, an open source Mac browser based on Mozilla’s Gecko rendering engine that debuted under the name Chimera all the way back in 2002, did yeoman’s work to make Camino as Mac-like as it was. They could not out-Mac Safari though. ↩︎︎


Why Does the iPhone Still Use Lightning?

Chaim Gartenberg, writing for The Verge, “The Lightning Port Isn’t About Convenience; It’s About Control”:

Notably absent from Apple’s argument, though, is the fact that cutting out a Lightning port on an iPhone wouldn’t just create more e-waste (if you buy Apple’s logic) or inconvenience its customers. It also means that Apple would lose out on the revenue it makes from every Lightning cable and accessory that works with the iPhone, Apple-made or not — along with the control it has over what kinds of hardware does (or doesn’t) get to exist for the iPhone and which companies get to make them.

Apple’s MFi program means that if you want to plug anything into an iPhone, be it charger or adapter or accessory, you have to go through Apple. And Apple takes a cut of every one of those devices, too.

Gartenberg summarizes a commonly-held theory here: that Apple is sticking with its proprietary Lightning port on iPhones because they profit from MFi peripherals. That it’s a money grab.

I don’t think this is the case at all. Apple is happy to keep the money it earns from MFi, of course. And they’re glad to have control over all iPhone peripherals. But I don’t think there’s serious money in that. It’s loose-change-under-the-couch-cushion revenue by Apple’s astonishingly high standards. How many normal people do you know who ever buy anything that plugs into a Lightning port other than a USB cable? And Apple doesn’t make more money selling their own (admittedly overpriced) Lightning cables to iPhone owners than they do selling their own (also overpriced) USB-C cables to iPad Pro and MacBook owners.

My theory is that Apple carefully weighs the pros and cons for each port on each device it makes, and chooses the technologies for those ports that it thinks makes for the best product for the most people. “What makes sense for the goals of this product that we will ship in three years? And then the subsequent models for the years after that?” Those are the questions Apple product designers ask.

The sub-head on Gartenberg’s piece is “The iPhone doesn’t have USB-C for a reason”. Putting that in the singular does not do justice to the complexity of such decisions. There are numerous reasons that the iPhones 13 still use Lightning — and there are numerous reasons why switching to USB-C would make sense. The pro-USB-C crowd, to me, often comes across as ideological. I’m not accusing Gartenberg of this — though it is his piece with the sub-head claiming there’s “a” singular reason — but many iPhones-should-definitely-use-USB-C proponents argue as though there are no good reasons for the iPhone to continue using Lightning. That’s nonsense.

To be clear, I’m neither pro-Lightning nor pro-USB-C. I see the trade-offs. If the iPhones 13 had switched to USB-C, I wouldn’t have complained. But I didn’t complain about them not switching, either. You’ll note that in none of my reviews of iPad models that have switched from Lightning to USB-C in recent years have I complained about the switch. Apple, to my eyes, has been managing this well. But, if the iPhones 13 had switched to USB-C, you know who would have complained? Hundreds of millions of existing iPhone users who have no interest in replacing the Lightning cables and docks they already own.

When Lightning replaced the old 30-pin iPod connector, starting with the iPhone 5 in 2012, many — I’d say most — existing iPhone users were not happy about it. Many were downright angry. It didn’t matter that the old 30-pin adapter was, compared to Lightning, hideously ungainly, far too large, and technically outdated. (Also, I believe the 30-pin port was impossible or nearly-impossible to make waterproof. The first waterproof models were the iPhones 7 in 2016.) People do not like buying new cables, no matter if they’re “better”. Now, I know what you, someone reading Daring Fireball, might be thinking — I own dozens of USB-C cables already — because you own other products, perhaps several from Apple itself, that do use USB-C. But that’s not true for most iPhone owners around the world. They have Lightning chargers in their kitchens, cars, purses, backpacks, and bedrooms. All things considered, they do not want to replace any of them, let alone all of them.

In 15 generations of iPhones, Apple has changed the connector once. And that one time was a clear win in every single regard. Changing from Lightning to USB-C is not so clearly an upgrade at all. It’s a sidestep. Note too that when Apple first started changing iPads — starting with the iPad Pro in late 2018 — from Lightning to USB-C, they didn’t say it was because USB-C is better, period, and certainly not solely for the reason that USB-C is “open”. They said it was to enable iPads Pro to do things that theretofore only PCs and Macs could do, like connecting to external displays. iPhones aren’t meant for that. Or at least aren’t meant for that yet — if ever they are, iPhone peripheral capabilities, including hardware ports, will change.

If you’re on team “Lightning is nothing but a money grab”, you should explain why, for inductive (a.k.a. wireless) charging, iPhones have supported industry-standard Qi from day one. Or why iPads have been steadily moving from Lightning to USB-C. Or why Apple was the first laptop maker to go all-in on USB-C, literally making a laptop with no ports other than a single USB-C port and a headphone jack.

Speaking of headphone jacks, my theory is the same with those. Apple’s not “against” headphone jacks. They’ve begun steadily removing them from new products only when they deem doing so the best trade-off. The new iPad Mini has no headphone jack; the new regular iPad that debuted alongside it does. That’s not ideal, but it’s not incoherent. They are different products for different users with different needs and different priorities. These decisions require nuance. “Apple’s just trying to force everyone to buy $160 AirPods” is not a nuanced argument. Is it a consideration that removing the headphone jack from more products each year might steer more customers toward their first AirPods purchase? Sure. But it’s not like there aren’t other brands of wireless headphones.

To say that there’s a reason that the iPhones 13 still use Lightning, any singular reason, is facile.