California Supreme Court Rules Against Apple Regarding Off-the-Clock Employee Bag Searches ★
Juli Clover, writing for MacRumors last week:
Apple broke California law when it failed to pay employees for
time spent waiting for mandatory bag searches at the end of their
shifts, the California Supreme Court ruled today. […]
Apple requires all personal packages, bags, and Apple devices that
belong to retail employees to be checked by a manager or security
before an employee is allowed to leave the store for any reason,
including breaks, lunch, and the end of shifts.
Employees are also required to clock out before submitting to an
exit search, and have estimated that the time spent waiting and
undergoing searches ranges from five to 20 minutes. On busy
days, some employees have waited for up to 45 minutes waiting
for a bag check.
Apple has argued that allowing employees to bring bags and devices
to work is a convenience and has positioned the searches as a
“benefit” because employees could prevent searches by not bringing
personal items or could be banned from bringing personal items all
together. The California Supreme Court says that such a ban would
be “draconian” and that Apple’s arguments that employee iPhones
are a convenience are “at odds” with how the iPhone is described
in marketing materials.
This whole thing is an embarrassment for the richest company in the world. I can see how it happened in the first place, but once it got to court, Apple should have recognized that the policy was flatly wrong and settled it by fully paying wages for time spent in these checks to retail employees worldwide. No matter the employer, if part of your job requires time spent in a security check, you deserve to be compensated for that time.
But for Apple in particular, this is absurd. First, Apple Retail stores are, square foot for square foot, the most profitable stores in the world. That would still be true if they paid employees for the time spent in these security checks. Second, taking this lawsuit to the state supreme court left Apple’s lawyers arguing that employees don’t need to take their Apple devices to work. Who doesn’t take their phone to work? I literally don’t know anyone who leaves the house for anything without their phone.
New Kansas – Miles Newlyn’s Revival of Cooper Black ★
Why did you decide to revive Cooper Back in particular? In ’93 I
released an elliptical seriffed blackletter font called Ferox and
Cooper Black was the inspiration. Since then I’ve spent a fair bit
of my career designing type with rounded or soft terminals. The
Tate font family is probably my best known of these. I’m motivated
by typeforms that have powerful foundations in pop culture, and
Cooper Black is the most loved of all.
Why do you think it’s remained so popular over the years? It
never looks bad. For that reason it’s available in signage and
custom print shops EVERYWHERE. It’s thoroughly embedded in the
collective psyche, and so its happy, fun and comforting spirit
“Happy, fun, and comforting” is a perfect description of Cooper Black. New Kansas looks to me like an excellent modern digital revival.
Input’s Week-Old Motorola Razr’s Display Already Broke at the Fold ★
Raymond Wong, writing for Input:
The Motorola Razr nightmare continues. A week after we
purchased and reviewed the foldable phone, the plastic OLED
display on our $1,500 device is now peeling apart… at the fold.
We always try our best to not be alarmist, but when a giant
horizontal air bubble appears literally out of nowhere and starts
separating the top lamination and the display panel, we have to
wonder why anyone would be optimistic about foldable phones.
And then here’s a guy whose brand-new Samsung Galaxy Z Flip cracked at the fold the first time he opened it, perhaps, he thinks, because of cold weather.
Lastly, from one year ago: “Apple ‘Faces Pressure’ to Deliver Foldable iPhone Fast”.
[Update: This post originally contained the quip “You’re folding it Wong”, a play on the infamous (but inaccurate) “You’re holding it wrong” Steve Jobs response to the iPhone 4 antennagate problem. When I wrote it, I thought it oh-so-clever to work in a second pun, in addition to holding/folding. But I should know better than to ever make a play on someone’s name, which is always out of line, and can easily veer into the outright offensive. I feel that’s true about my mistake here — it was offensive. I am truly sorry, and hereby apologize to Raymond Wong and to everyone who read the post as originally written. I should have known better, and will do better. I also want to thank Raymond for his gracious response.]
Apple Warns That Coronavirus Outbreak in China Will Affect Revenue This Quarter ★
Apple press release:
Our quarterly guidance issued on January 28, 2020 reflected the
best information available at the time as well as our best
estimates about the pace of return to work following the end of
the extended Chinese New Year holiday on February 10. Work is
starting to resume around the country, but we are experiencing a
slower return to normal conditions than we had anticipated. As a
result, we do not expect to meet the revenue guidance we provided
for the March quarter due to two main factors.
The first is that worldwide iPhone supply will be temporarily
constrained. While our iPhone manufacturing partner sites are
located outside the Hubei province — and while all of these
facilities have reopened — they are ramping up more slowly than
we had anticipated. The health and well-being of every person who
helps make these products possible is our paramount priority, and
we are working in close consultation with our suppliers and public
health experts as this ramp continues. These iPhone supply
shortages will temporarily affect revenues worldwide.
The second is that demand for our products within China has been
affected. All of our stores in China and many of our partner
stores have been closed. Additionally, stores that are open have
been operating at reduced hours and with very low customer
Neither of these things should be a surprise. Surely all consumer electronics companies with a manufacturing dependency upon China are affected similarly. For a U.S. company, though, Apple is unique in terms of its retail presence in China. Update: The issue with iPhone suppliers, I know nothing about. But I think Apple itself should have foreseen the decrease in Chinese consumer demand from this outbreak back on January 28. It seems like Apple’s executives actually believed what the Chinese government was saying about this outbreak and based their sales guidance on it.
The other factor I’ve been thinking about is how this outbreak might be affecting the development of future Apple products. Apple’s guidance here is solely about quarterly revenue for this January-March quarter. But Apple employees need to travel to China every day. Remember a year ago, when United Airlines accidentally leaked that Apple was their biggest client, spending $150M a year, including 50 business-class seats to China every day. What I wrote then:
50 seats a day between SFO and Shanghai is just a jaw-dropping
number. That’s 25 Apple employees flying home and another 25
heading over every single day.
It’s possible that Apple just has a standing order for those
seats, and some days they go unused by Apple employees. But I’ve
heard from a few birdies who frequent the SFO-PVG route that “50
seats a day” undercounts the number of Apple employees making
this trip, because it’s only counting United. They fly other
airlines when those 50 seats are already full, and that’s not
uncommon. They also apparently fly a ton on Cathay Pacific because
it’s a nicer experience than United.
Those Apple employees who travel to China aren’t doing so for kicks. They have work to do there. Suppliers to meet, parts and prototypes and assembly lines to inspect. The final products are all stamped “Designed by Apple in California / Assembled in China”, but the connection between those two statements is not conducted remotely. It involves a lot of Apple’s own employees traveling to China. If that travel has been curtailed by this outbreak, it’s a problem — but a problem that has nothing to do with the next few weeks.
Let’s Get Real About How Important Our Phones Are ★
Geoffrey Fowler, writing for The Washington Post:
At its “Unpacked” event here on Tuesday, the world’s largest smartphone maker unveiled a new model called the Galaxy S20 that touts ultrafast 5G and a camera with enough zoom for a spy. A second new smartphone, called the Galaxy Z Flip, opens and closes like a flip phone from 2003, using a cutting-edge folding-screen technology.
And with prices ranging from $1,000 to $1,400, either one is hard to justify as much more than a luxury.
This is the same nonsense we hear about Apple’s phones, post-iPhone X. Yes, phones that cost $1,000 or more are expensive. Yes, that’s outside the budget for most people. But why in the world would anyone argue this is ”hard to justify”? Phones are, for most people, the most-used computing device in their lives. They are also their primary — usually only — camera. A good camera alone used to cost $500-600.
There are way more people on the planet who’d rather have a $1,400 phone and a $400 laptop than the other way around. But you’ll never see a tech reviewer claim that $1,000-1,400 is “hard to justify” for a laptop. It’s ridiculously out of touch to argue otherwise. And, the fact that top-of-the-line phones have reached these price points does not negate the fact that truly excellent phones are available at much lower prices.
21st Century Autocracy ★
David Frum, writing back in 2017:
What has happened in Hungary since 2010 offers an example — and a blueprint for would-be strongmen. Hungary is a member state of the European Union and a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights. It has elections and uncensored internet. Yet Hungary is ceasing to be a free country.
The transition has been nonviolent, often not even very dramatic. Opponents of the regime are not murdered or imprisoned, although many are harassed with building inspections and tax audits. If they work for the government, or for a company susceptible to government pressure, they risk their jobs by speaking out. Nonetheless, they are free to emigrate anytime they like. Those with money can even take it with them. Day in and day out, the regime works more through inducements than through intimidation. The courts are packed, and forgiving of the regime’s allies. Friends of the government win state contracts at high prices and borrow on easy terms from the central bank. Those on the inside grow rich by favoritism; those on the outside suffer from the general deterioration of the economy. As one shrewd observer told me on a recent visit, “The benefit of controlling a modern state is less the power to persecute the innocent, more the power to protect the guilty.”
21st century autocracy does not resemble 20th century autocracy. It’s a different ballgame. And we’re facing it right here in America, right now. I’m not going to say that the president of the United States brazenly pushing for a lighter criminal sentence for his long-time friend and co-conspirator is the worst that it can get. It’s not, and I think it’s going to get worse. But let’s stop pretending that Trump and his enablers haven’t already crossed the autocrat line. This is where we are; let’s deal with it with our eyes wide open.
Samsung’s Galaxy Book S Is Thinner, Lighter, Faster Than MacBook Air ★
Sanjiv Sathiah, writing for NotebookCheck:
The Intel Core i5-8210Y delivers a multi-core score of 1544 which
compares poorly with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 8cx multi-core score
of 2745. Yet, despite fitting the MacBook Air with a 49.9 Wh
battery, Apple claims it will deliver just 13 hours of continuous
video playback. However, because of the superior
performance-per-watt of the Snapdragon 8cx when paired with the
smaller 42 Wh battery in the Galaxy Book S, it delivers up to 25
hours (claimed) of continuous video playback. […]
The MacBook Air weighs 1.25 kg (2.75 pounds) and is 15.6 mm
(0.61-inches) at its thickest point. This compares with the Galaxy
Book S which weighs 0.96 kg (2.11 pounds) and measures 11.8 mm
(0.46-inches). Given that buyers of the slightly more expensive
MacBook Air (US$1,099) are also only going to be doing relatively
light-weight tasks on it like internet browsing and running
Microsoft’s Office suite on it, why would anyone choose the
MacBook Air over the Galaxy Book S (US$999)?
Well, there’s the small notion of, you know, the operating system. And let’s see if it really does get 25 hours of video playback. But the point stands. A lot of people using MacBooks today aren’t devoted to the MacOS experience, and might switch, based on hardware alone. The ARM revolution for notebook PCs is coming, whether Apple is ready or not.
(I think they’re ready.)
What Jonathan Chait Does Like About Bernie Sanders ★
In broad strokes, you can probably file me as a Jonathan Chait Democrat. I agree with Chait far more often than not, and when I disagree with him, I almost always think, “Well, he does make some good points.”
Long story short, we’re not Bernie Sanders fans.
But! As Chait points out in his column today, there’s a lot to like about Bernie Sanders even if you’re not a Bernie Sanders Democrat. (I will not bring up the fact that Bernie Sanders himself is not a Democrat.) Among the candidates who seem to have a legitimate chance to win the Democratic nomination this year — Biden, Bloomberg, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, Sanders, Warren, in alphabetical order — Sanders is far from my first choice. But if he’s the nominee — and he may well be — I will support him wholeheartedly and with no reservations. There is a lot to like about all of these candidates, and those of us in opposition to Trump have got to stick together.
Elections are fundamentally about winning. Trump is already trying to distract and divide us.
Today, in Our Headlong Roll Into Banana Republicdom ★
Senior Justice Department officials intervened to overrule front-line prosecutors and will recommend a more lenient sentencing for Roger J. Stone Jr., convicted last year of impeding investigators in a bid to protect his longtime friend President Trump, a senior department official said Tuesday.
The move is highly unusual and is certain to generate allegations of political interference. It came after federal prosecutors in Washington asked a judge late Monday evening to sentence Mr. Stone to seven to nine years in prison on seven felony convictions for trying to sabotage a congressional investigation that threatened Mr. Trump.
Early on Tuesday, Mr. Trump declared the sentencing recommendation “horrible and very unfair.”
“The real crimes were on the other side, as nothing happens to them,” Mr. Trump wrote. “Cannot allow this miscarriage of justice!”
Trump is not just intervening on behalf of a friend, it’s a case where Trump himself (and his son) were up to their necks in it.
“Highly unusual” is an absurd euphemism.
Fox’s Redesigned NFL Graphics ★
John Teti, writing for The AV Club:
Everyone has their own focal point on Super Bowl Sunday. Some
viewers are there for the halftime show. Others watch for the
commercials. And let’s not forget those of us who tune in to see
the main event: three hours of men in brightly colored garments,
pummeling each other, for America.
Those are all marvelous reasons to watch, but in my living room,
there was yet another, admittedly obscure facet of the game that
filled me with anticipation right up until kickoff, as I wondered,
“Will Fox premiere a new suite of onscreen graphics for the Super
Bowl?” The answer, to my delight, was yes.
It really is a good graphics system — replacing an older design that was also very good. It works well for everyone — those who are playing close attention to the game and those who are not, but just want to see what’s going on at a glance.
(Via Todd Vaziri.)
MLB’s 2020 Batting Practice Caps Are Mostly Terrible ★
I know it goes against all logic and reason, but it really seems
like shoving one logo inside of another logo is not a great way to
design a third logo.
Oscar-Winning Screenwriter Taika Waititi, Asked What Writers Should Be Asking for in the Next Round of Talks With Producers: ‘Apple Needs to Fix Those Keyboards. They Are Impossible to Write on. They’ve Gotten Worse. It Makes Me Want to Go Back to PCs.’ ★
This clip is making the rounds this morning, with good reason. It hits home. Watch the whole video — Waititi is obviously being a bit glib with the entire premise of his answer, but he’s not joking. He’s a writer and writers really care about keyboards.
I’ve been saying for years now that Apple has done severe reputational harm to the MacBook brand, which effectively is the Mac brand for most people, especially writers. Yes, there’s a new keyboard with scissor-switch mechanisms in the 16-inch MacBook Pro. It’s a pleasure to type on. But we’re still months away from the rest of the MacBook lineup being updated to use that new keyboard. And that’s a presumption on my part, that all MacBooks will get the new keyboard sooner rather than later. It certainly wouldn’t make any sense if they didn’t — but the whole butterfly-switch saga has never made any sense.
Apple could switch every single Mac in the lineup to the new keyboards tomorrow, and people would still be joking about MacBook keyboards for years to come.
Morning Brew ★
My thanks to Morning Brew for sponsoring DF last week. There’s a reason over 1 million people start their day with Morning Brew — the daily email that delivers the latest news from Wall Street to Silicon Valley. Business news doesn’t have to be dry and dense… make your mornings more enjoyable, for free.
I’ve been subscribed for over six months. It’s a great daily read — concise, fun, and a clean crisp design. You get one email each morning and that’s it. I recommend it.
From the DF Archive, Heretofore the Longest Headline in DF History: ‘Yet Another in the Ongoing Series Wherein I Examine a Piece of Supposedly Serious Apple Analysis From a Major Media Outlet and Dissect Its Inaccuracies, Fabrications, and Exaggerations Point-by-Point, Despite the Fact That No Matter How Egregious the Inaccuracies / Fabrications / Exaggerations, Such Pieces Inevitably Lead to Accusations That I’m Some Sort of Knee-Jerk Shill Who Rails Against Anything “Anti-Apple” Simply for the Sake of Defending Apple, and if I Love Apple So Much Why Don’t I Just Marry Them?’ ★
I’ll explain why I’m re-linking this now in a bit, but it’s also a fun bit of claim chowder from a staunch iPhone doubter who somehow finagled a Fast Company cover story.
Our Long National Nightmare Is Over: Netflix Makes Preview Autoplay Optional ★
They’ve offered a setting for “Autoplay next episode in a series” for years, but the new setting released today for “Autoplay previews while browsing” is the thing that has driven me nuts.
‘Apple, Just Bundle News+ Already’ ★
This isn’t rocket science. It’s not any kind of science. It’s
common sense. News+ was never going to work as a stand-alone
subscription offering from Apple. With the news today of a
key departure from the group, perhaps the company now sees that.
But the writing has been on the wall from day one. […]
So, what to do?
It’s so obvious that it’s already rumored. Make News+ a part of an
Apple bundle. Yes, yes, “Apple Prime” as it were. Flip the script
so that News+ isn’t yet another cognitive load on us. Something
that may be a good deal but will I really have time for that? To:
oh wow, this is included in what I already pay for? Awesome.
I don’t know if there’s a strategy behind waiting to unveil such a bundle, or if they’re still working on the technical and possible licensing details behind it, or if internally Apple is actually still debating the merits of a bundle. But I’m with Siegler: it seems obvious.
At the very least such a bundle should include Music, TV+, News+, and Arcade, but I’d like to see it include increased iCloud storage too. One single family subscription to get the best Apple “Services” have to offer. And the name is obvious at this point: Apple+.
New Features in iOS / iPadOS 13.4 Beta 1 ★
Lots of new stuff for a .4 update, including several new features when hardware keyboards are used with an iPad. Key remapping, for example, which allows you to, say, map the Caps Lock key to Escape.
Who Buys Big SUVs? ★
Aaron Gordon, writing for Vice on the return of the Hummer:
And that portrait is largely the result of one consultant who
worked for Chrysler, Ford, and GM during the SUV boom: Clotaire
Rapaille. Rapaille, a French emigree, believed the SUV appealed —
at the time to mostly upper-middle class suburbanites — to a
fundamental subconscious animalistic state, our “reptilian desire
for survival,” as relayed by Bradsher. (“We don’t believe what
people say,” the website for Rapaille’s consulting firm
declares. Instead, they use “a unique blend of biology,
cultural anthropology and psychology to discover the hidden
cultural forces that pre-organize the way people behave towards a
product, service or concept”). Americans were afraid, Rapaille
found through his exhaustive market research, and they were mostly
afraid of crime even though crime was actually falling and at
near-record lows. As Bradsher wrote, “People buy SUVs, he tells
auto executives, because they are trying to look as menacing as
possible to allay their fears of crime and other violence.” They,
quite literally, bought SUVs to run over “gang members” with,
Perhaps this sounds farfetched, but the auto industry’s own
studies agreed with this general portrait of SUV buyers. Bradsher
described that portrait, comprised of marketing reports from the
major automakers, as follows:
Who has been buying SUVs since automakers turned them into
family vehicles? They tend to be people who are insecure and
vain. They are frequently nervous about their marriages and
uncomfortable about parenthood. They often lack confidence in
their driving skills. Above all, they are apt to be
self-centered and self-absorbed, with little interest in their
neighbors or communities.
I recently rented a Chevy Tahoe because we needed the storage capacity for a day trip. I can’t believe anyone chooses to drive these things daily. It’s like driving a car inside a car, no feel for the road at all.
Wacom Drawing Tablets Track the Name of Every Application That You Open ★
Last week I set up my tablet on my new laptop. As part of
installing its drivers I was asked to accept Wacom’s privacy
Being a mostly-normal person I never usually read privacy
policies. Instead I vigorously hammer the “yes” button in an
effort to reach the game, machine, or medical advice on the other
side of the agreement as fast as possible. But Wacom’s request
made me pause. Why does a device that is essentially a mouse need
make an exception to my anti-privacy-policy-policy and give this
one a read.
Absolutely appalling what Wacom tracks.
Spotify Is Buying Bill Simmons’s The Ringer ★
Peter Kafka, reporting for Recode:
Spotify is making yet another big-budget purchase aimed at getting
a lead in the growing podcast industry: The streaming music
company has agreed to a deal to purchase The Ringer, the
podcast-centric media company run and owned by Bill Simmons.
Spotify intends to hire Simmons and all of his approximately 90
employees. Most of those employees work on The Ringer’s website,
which covers sports and culture, and Spotify intends to keep the
site up and running.
But what Spotify really wants out of the deal is Simmons’s ability
to create podcasts, including his Bill Simmons Podcast, and some
30 other titles, which range from an NBA chat show to one devoted
to rewatching old movies.
I remain deeply wary of Spotify’s intentions in the podcast space, but if they keep The Ringer’s podcasts as open podcasts, this acquisition really shouldn’t matter much to listeners.
Apple Adds Ability for Developers to Sell Mac and iOS Apps as a Single Purchase ★
Apple Developer news:
Starting in March 2020, you’ll be able to distribute iOS, iPadOS,
macOS, and tvOS versions of your app as a universal purchase,
allowing customers to enjoy your app and in‑app purchases across
platforms by purchasing only once. You can choose to create a new
app for these platforms using a single app record in App Store
Connect or add platforms to your existing app record. Get started
by building and testing your apps using a single bundle ID with
Xcode 11.4 beta.
It’s great to have the option for universal purchases, but tying
it to the bundle identifier seems problematic. What if you’ve
already shipped an app for multiple platforms? Apple doesn’t let
you change the bundle identifier. Do you have to abandon the old
app (losing its links and ratings and migrating its files and
AppleScripts) or maintain two separate apps?
From the business side, it’s a great user experience for customers
who want to pay once and get everything. But what about customers
who only want the iPhone version and may not even own a Mac or
Apple TV? They have to pay the same price? And, for developers,
this is likely to further devalue software. Get all the versions
for one low price, with Apple implying that it didn’t take much
Liz Plank on Nancy Pelosi Tearing Up Trump’s State of the Union Speech ★
Liz Plank, writing for NBC News:
Of course the speaker is getting pushback. Pelosi displaying the
tiniest bit of rage exemplifies the scrutiny that awaits her and
women in politics — a scrutiny that is even worse for women of
color. Women learn early on to mask anger because they know
they’ll be punished for it. While Trump gets to have a meltdown
almost every day, female politicians have to be much more savvy
and calculated when communicating even the slightest bit of
But as I watched the twittersphere debate whether Pelosi’s small
act of civil disobedience was out of line or not, all I could
think about were the Democratic voters I got to interview in
Iowa this week leading up to the Iowa caucus. And how desperate
they are to win this November. The stakes in the 2020 elections
are higher than ever and the voters feel it. Every single
caucusgoer I spoke to said the same thing: “We need someone who
can beat Trump.”
So will the Democrats continue to play nice? Will they smile
through their frustration as the president hurls insults and
disgraces the office he is privileged to sit in every day? Or do
they want to win?
Pelosi — and I choose this word deliberately — triggers Republicans because she’s (a) a woman, and (b) plays hardball. She’s not fucking around. She was cool as ice as she tore that speech — it was like she was ripping up a junk mail credit card offer. It’s Republicans who’ve flipped out emotionally.
For decades now Republicans have been playing win-at-any-cost hardball politics, while Democrats have played nice. Trump’s presidency has laid bare what should have been obvious to Democrats long ago — they must play hardball too. The difference has been hardball vs. playing-nice-ball. It needs to be win-at-any-cost-including-subverting-democracy hardball (Republicans) vs. hardball with integrity (Democrats).
Pelosi gets that. And it drives Republicans nuts. The Democrats have played nice for so long that Republicans are outraged when a Democrat simply gives them a taste of their own hardball medicine.
Looks Like Eddy Cue Was Right ★
Stuart McGurk, interviewing Eddy Cue for GQ last summer:
And yet the rumours that have so far come out regarding Apple’s TV
shows are that they’re purposefully taking streaming back to the
network TV age: fun for all the family. The New York Post reported
that Cook and Cue were visiting sets in order to rein in shows
that weren’t toeing the line. […]
Cook’s most common note on scripts, according to the report, was
“Don’t be so mean.”
“I saw the comments that myself and Tim were writing notes on the
scripts and whatever,” says Cue. “There’s never been one note
passed from us on scripts, that I can assure you. We leave the
folks [alone] who know they’re doing.”
So Cook didn’t give that particular note?
“I can assure you that was 100 percent false. He didn’t say,
‘Don’t be so mean.’ He didn’t say anything about a script.”
The NY Post report in question has never been walked back either. Say what you want about Apple’s original content thus far, but it does not lack for meanness.
Claim Chowder on the WSJ’s ‘No Sex Please, We’re Apple’ Story ★
Tripp Mickle and Joe Flint, writing back in September 2018 for The Wall Street Journal, “No Sex Please, We’re Apple: iPhone Giant Seeks TV Success on Its Own Terms”:
Apple’s entertainment team must walk a line few in Hollywood would
consider. Since Mr. Cook spiked “Vital Signs,” Apple has made
clear, say producers and agents, that it wants high-quality shows
with stars and broad appeal, but it doesn’t want gratuitous sex,
profanity or violence.
The result is an approach out of step with the triumphs of the
video-streaming era. Other platforms, such as HBO and Amazon.com
Inc., have made their mark in original content with edgier
programming that often wins critical acclaim. Netflix Inc., which
helped birth the streaming revolution, built its original-content
business on “House of Cards,” a drama about an ethically bankrupt
politician, and “Orange Is the New Black,” a comedic drama about a
women’s prison. Both feature rough language and plenty of sex.
I suppose you can argue about the word “gratuitous”, but the TV+ shows I’ve watched — The Morning Show, For All Mankind, and Servant — don’t seem to hold back on sex or strong language. The Morning Show and Servant in particular are clearly adult shows. I haven’t watched See, but from what I’ve heard, it too is for adults. As far as I’m aware, The Wall Street Journal never walked this back.
Remembering Pantscast ★
The story behind the very best high-fidelity podcast audio processing engine ever made.
Overcast Adds Voice Boost 2 ★
The story behind the second-best high-fidelity podcast audio processing engine ever made.
Purported Video of Samsung Galaxy Z Flip in Action ★
What problems does this solve? Who has a pocket that isn’t deep enough for an unfolded phone but is thick enough for this thing folded up? This is pure gimmickry.
New Promotion From Apple Offers Up to $100 for Series 2 and Series 3 Watch Models ★
Juli Clover, MacRumors:
Apple is currently running a new Apple Watch promotion that’s
ideal for anyone who is considering trading in an older Apple
Watch model to purchase a new model. Apple is offering up to $100
on the Apple Watch Series 2 and Apple Watch Series 3 models, which
is a higher trade-in amount than Apple normally offers for those
No word on what you can get for a Series 0 in 18-karat solid gold.
Federico Viticci’s Review of the New Fantastical ★
Federico Viticci, writing for MacStories:
I’ll cut right to the chase: I’ve been using the new Fantastical
for the past few months (hence the inclusion in my Must-Have Apps
story), and it’s become the only calendar app I need, offering
more power and flexibility than any alternative from Apple or the
App Store. The free version of the new Fantastical — effectively,
Fantastical 2 with a fresh coat of paint and some smaller bonuses
— is a capable alternative to Apple’s Calendar app, but the
Premium version is where Flexibits’ latest creation truly shines.
At $40/year, Fantastical Premium may be a big ask for some users,
but as a busy individual who deals with teammates all over the
globe and likes Fantastical’s new features, I plan to subscribe.
Among my favorite new features: complete feature-parity between platforms (previously, the Mac could do more than the iOS versions); integrated weather from a great source, AccuWeather (which is, needless to say, not a free service for Flexibits to offer); calendar sets with iCloud syncing; “interesting calendars” from SchedJoules like team schedules for your favorite sports (also not a free service for Flexibits); and full task support integrating with Apple Reminders, Todoist, and Google Tasks.
The interface of the apps, as usual from Flexibits, is exquisite. Take note, in particular, of the top-left-corner menu button in the iPhone app. It animates joyfully when opening, has subtle haptic feedback, and you can just tap-and-drag to select an item from it.
Fantastical 3’s Move to Subscription Pricing ★
Speaking of the App Store and the market for pro utility software, here, once again, is Dieter Bohn:
It’s not every day we get to talk about a good old-fashioned
utility app update. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re a dying
breed, but the Apple App Store platform dynamics of recent years
have made their row much harder to hoe.
Which is one reason I’m happy to say that if you’re a Mac or
iPhone user (or, ideally, both), you should absolutely go check
out the newly updated Fantastical apps. There are a few new
features and parity across platforms — I personally am excited
for a calendar app that integrates with several to-do apps.
The thing about this update that may grab some attention is that
it is moving to a subscription model. Historically, this kind of
move has sparked consternation, but I’m not feeling any of that.
It’s $4.99 a month or — in my preferred way to talk about
subscription pricing — $40 per year (a $20 discount). That
subscription gets you access to the iPhone, Mac, iPad, and Apple
Watch apps. Non-Apple users should look elsewhere.
I think the subscription model is totally fair, especially given
Flexibits’ history of updates and quality. That’s partially
because, as I alluded to up top, there really aren’t better
options for this category of apps given the rules laid down by
Apple in the App Store.
Consternation indeed. Lots of complaining on Twitter, and Fantastical 3’s App Store reviews have been dragged down by angry users complaining about the pricing change. For users who only used Fantastical on iPhone, I can see the complaint about pricing — it went from a one-time purchase of $4-5 to a $40 annual subscription. That’s a big jump. But — and this is a huge “but” — Flexibits (Fantastical’s developer) went out of its way to let anyone who owned Fantastical 2 keep the features they already had access to when upgrading to Fantastical 3. If you owned Fantastical 2 you can use Fantastical 3 free of charge and keep the features you already had.
And if, like me, you used Fantastical across iPhone, iPad, and Mac (they previously sold the iPad app as a separate version from iPhone), $40 a year is quite reasonable. Fantastical is a professional calendaring (and now task management) app, and as Bohn points out, subscriptions are the best way for a developer like Flexibits to succeed in the App Store.
Google Has Paid Android Developers About $80 Billion to Date ★
Dieter Bohn, writing for The Verge:
We’ll have analysis of YouTube’s numbers up on the site today, so
instead I’ll just pay a little more attention to the Android bit:
a total of $80 billion paid out to Android developers, which is
significantly less than the $155 billion Apple has paid out via
the iOS App Store.
Even if you account for Google allowing developers to use their
own payment methods and made a bunch of other caveats, I suspect
you can’t avoid the truth. The vast majority of phones on Earth
run Android, and yet it is almost surely the case that there’s
more money for developers in iPhone apps. That’s always been the
conventional wisdom, but Google’s own numbers all but confirm it.
I’d say $80 billion compared to Apple’s $155 billion is a very respectable number, all things considered. In the early days of the mobile revolution, the big debate was whether the Android-iOS competition would play out like Windows-Mac did in the ’90s. I, for one, was correct that it would not.
But I think we were all wrong — myself included — about the biggest trend of all. The question wasn’t about whether there was more money to be made developing for iOS than Android — it was about whether there was money to be made developing for mobile, period. Obviously, $235 billion in combined payments from Apple and Google is a lot of money. But how much of that is for games? Productivity and utility software has turned out to be a hard sell to mobile users. The default is “free”.
Toni Sacconaghi Estimates Fewer Than 10 Percent of Eligible Customers May Have Used Apple TV+ Free Trial ★
Stephen Warwick, writing for iMore:
According to Investor’s Business Daily:
Less than 10% of Apple customers eligible for 12-month free trials
of the company’s Apple TV+ streaming video service have taken the
offer, a Wall Street analyst said Monday. Bernstein analyst Toni
Sacconaghi estimates that under 10 million Apple customers have
accepted the free trial offer. He calls that a “surprisingly low
The report is in stark contrast to a recent WSJ report,
which included estimates that Apple TV+ may have north of 30
million subscribers. As is per usual with these sorts of
estimates, the answer is probably somewhere in the middle.
Either that, or everyone is wrong.
It is a great deal — why not watch the shows you’re interested in free-of-charge? And Apple does make it easy to unsubscribe — it’s the opposite of, say, trying to cancel your cable subscription. And Apple has done an excellent job of making it really easy for eligible customers — those who’ve recently bought a qualifying device — to get their year-long free subscription started with a big button in the TV app on every device they make. If you buy a new Mac you can start your subscription from iPhone or Apple TV or iPad.
But I wonder how many people who qualify know all of this. How many people don’t know because they never even open the TV app? How many people who see the offer in the TV app don’t try it because they don’t trust that it’s really free for an entire year, and is very easy to cancel before getting charged in 12 months? How many people know that it works perfectly with family sharing — so even if they’re not personally interested in any of TV+’s shows, if any of their family members are, it’s worth signing up?
YouTube Is a $15 Billion-a-Year Business, Google Reveals for the First Time ★
Nick Statt, reporting for The Verge:
YouTube generated nearly $5 billion in ad revenue in the last
three months, Google revealed today as part of parent company
Alphabet’s fourth quarter earnings report. This is the first
report under newly instated Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai, who took
over as the chief executive of the entire company late last year
after co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin stepped back from
The announcement marks the first time in YouTube’s nearly 15 years
as a Google-owned platform, since Google bought the website in
2006 for $1.65 billion, that the company has revealed how much
money YouTube-hosted ads contribute to the search giant’s bottom
line. On an annual basis, that makes YouTube a $15 billion-a-year
business that contributes roughly 10 percent to all Google
revenue. It also makes YouTube’s annual earnings nearly one fifth
the size of all of Facebook’s.
Why release this now? Speculation centers around the fact that Alphabet’s revenue was $800M less than expected, even though profits beat expectations. Perhaps Alphabet is now breaking out revenue by product to emphasize that they’re not solely dependent on search.
Update: Jeremy Owens, writing for MarketWatch:
Revenue-recognition rules that were approved in 2014 and
went into effect at the end of 2017 call on companies to report
financial results to their investors in the same manner that they
are reported to the main decision-maker at the company, typically
the chief executive. Basically, if a CEO sees numbers for a large
segment of the company, the company should be reporting that
segment’s results to investors.
As the revenue-recognition rules were being put in place by
companies in 2017 ahead of the deadline, the Securities and
Exchange Commission entered into communication with Alphabet
specifically to discern why it was not providing revenue numbers
for its segments, mentioning YouTube, Google Cloud and
some other businesses, such as hardware. Google responded by
saying that its chief decision-maker, Alphabet CEO Larry Page,
did not see results parsed to that level, though Google CEO
Sundar Pichai did.
Louie Mantia on the State of iOS UI Design ★
Deeply insightful thread from Louie Mantia:
People think iOS 7 killed superfluous things like wood textures,
but more seriously it downplayed visual design. We lost things
like shadows and lighting. This stuff isn’t just a veneer. They
are tools. They were used to indicate so many things like
inactivity or focus.
In 2020, iPadOS doesn’t convey app focus in split-screen mode. But
window focus was apparent over 35 years ago on the original
Macintosh. It was only black and white! But today when we have
millions of colors, we don’t indicate focus well.
So perfectly said. Post-iOS 7, Apple has been obsessed with not indicating focus. A clear indication of input focus is so helpful to everyone from novices to experts.
The lack of focus indication is much more of a problem on iOS (iPhone and iPad, but especially iPad simply because the displays are so much bigger) than MacOS. But even Apple’s Mac apps often hide focus — I wish the text input field in Messages had a focus ring (like Safari’s location field does — or Message’s own search field), for example.
Faking a Traffic Jam on Google Maps With 99 Spare Phones ★
Interesting prank / proof of concept by Simon Weckert — he toted 99 second-hand phones around in a wagon, and thereby tricked Google Maps into thinking it was a severe traffic jam. Pretty sure the same thing would fool Apple Maps.
Google, in a statement to 9to5Google, responded with good humor:
Traffic data in Google Maps is refreshed continuously thanks to
information from a variety of sources, including aggregated
anonymized data from people who have location services turned on
and contributions from the Google Maps community. We’ve launched
the ability to distinguish between cars and motorcycles in several
countries including India, Indonesia and Egypt, though we haven’t
quite cracked traveling by wagon. We appreciate seeing creative
uses of Google Maps like this as it helps us make maps work better
Daring Fireball Weekly Sponsorships for February and March ★
DF sponsorships for February and March are mostly open, including this current week. 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. 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.
Apple in 2019: The Six Colors Report Card ★
It’s time for our annual look back on Apple’s performance during
the past year, as seen through the eyes of writers, editors,
developers, podcasters, and other people who spend an awful lot of
time thinking about Apple.
This is the fifth year that I’ve presented this survey to a
hand-selected group. They were prompted with 12 different
Apple-related subjects, and asked to rate them on a scale from 1
to 5 and optionally provide text commentary per category. I
received 65 replies, with the average results as shown below.
Compiling these report cards is a mountain of work, and I am deeply thankful to Snell for doing it each year. The cumulative grades feel just about spot-on to me. As I did last year, I’ll publish my own full report card later today.
‘Getting the iPad to Pro’ ★
Speaking of Craig Mod, I somehow never linked to his November 2018 essay on the iPad as a pro computing device. There are a few aspects that were addressed in iPadOS 13, but most of it could just as easily have been published today:
I have a near endless bag of these nits to share. For the last
year I’ve kept a text file of all the walls I’ve run into using an
iPad Pro as a pro machine. Is this all too pedantic? Maybe. But
it’s also kind of fun. When’s the last time we’ve been able to
watch a company really figure out a new OS in public?
When I run into the above usability issues, it makes me wonder
Why am I trying to do something this way? (What strange habit
or unnecessary expectation am I bringing to the table?)
How would the simplicity of iOS be subverted by allowing this
new thing to happen?
Computers are nothing if not a constellation of design and
engineering details that either work for or against you. They
either push you forward, smoothly, an encouraging tailwind
allowing you to get done the work you want to get done, or they
push back, become abrasive, breaking you from flow states, causing
you to have to Google even the simplest task. I lost an hour the
other day trying to open an Open Office Document. This is
bananas. iPads should be better. They’re so close. And they’re
certainly powerful enough.
Craig Mod on Running a Paid Membership Program ★
In the end, launching a paid membership program is maybe the
smartest thing I’ve done: 2019 was the most productive and
creatively engaged year of my life. And I owe the brunt of
that to the Explorers Club. A rapturous THANK YOU to everyone who
joined. It has not been “easy,” or effortless. […]
Everyone’s needs are different. I can’t explicitly recommend every
writer or photographer or YouTuber to start their own membership
program. What I can do is tell you about my experience, and hope
that it’s instructive to those readers out there who might, too,
Memberships — often driven by members-only email newsletters — have been the lifeboat for indie publishing and creative arts in a market where ad spending has largely been guzzled up by Facebook, Google, and Amazon. The term “win-win” applies: income for creators; great writing/photography/videos/music for consumers, from their favorite creators.
I am tremendously grateful to everyone who has joined. I realize
not everyone can afford to join, and I realize we’re all a bit
bombarded by “memberships” and “subscriptions” these days. But
ultimately — this is a good thing! A scant ten years ago this
ecosystem barely existed. Now it’s ever-more normalized. This
feels healthy. Directly supporting writers, artists, musicians,
software developers, et cetera, feels like the final remaining
puzzle piece of the last 30 years of independent creation.
Computers democratized design in the ’80s/’90s, the web
democratized publishing in the ’00s, and now proper payments
infrastructure is democratizing creative sustainability.
Bingo. Mod’s Explorer’s Club is just sublime, by the way. Highly recommended.
Russia’s ‘Law Against Apple’ ★
Josh Nadeau, writing for Fast Company:
In November 2019, Russian parliament passed what’s become known as
the “law against Apple.” The legislation will require all
smartphone devices to preload a host of applications that may
provide the Russian government with a glut of information about
its citizens, including their location, finances, and private
Apple typically forbids the preloading of third-party apps onto
its system’s hardware. But come July 2020, when the law goes into
effect, Apple will be forced to quit the country and a market
estimated at $3 billion unless it complies. […]
“Typically” is a vast understatement. To my knowledge, Apple has never included third-party apps on iOS devices anywhere in the world. In the early years of iPhone, that would have been apps from phone carriers and their “partners”. It’s still typical today for an Android phone purchased from, say, Verizon, to include Verizon apps pre-installed.
Having such apps mandated by the government is new, but the principle remains the same: I expect Apple to resist this, and if necessary, pull the iPhone from the Russian market. (I would expect a very healthy gray market to develop in Russia if that happens.) If Apple concedes to such demands in one country, where does it stop?
Now that I think about it, I’m kind of surprised China hasn’t passed a law like this. That would put enormous financial pressure on Apple — the Russian iPhone market is $3 billion, yes, but that’s small potatoes for Apple. “Greater China” accounted for $13.5 billion in revenue for Apple last quarter alone.
When the “law against Apple” was passed in Russia back in
November, experts expressed concern that the preloaded apps
would pose just as real a threat as an official backdoor. Last
week, the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service published a
list of which applications will be required: Among the
programs are government-produced apps for paying taxes and fines,
as well as banking, navigation, and social media platforms with
links to official bodies. These would have the potential to
collect and send data related to finances, location,
communications, and more, all without direct user permission.
I think Apple ought to refuse to comply with such a law from any country, but holy hell Russia in particular would be a privacy and security nightmare. (Again, though, China would be worse.)