Send as text message in iOS 10

Michael Tsai:

I found several forum posts, but the only solution seems to be to temporarily turn off iMessage, which seems like a terrible solution because it means that you won’t be able to receive iMessages from anyone else in the interim. Worse, the iMessages will look to the sender like they got delivered because they’ll still go to your Mac or iPad.

Ideally, there would be a way to simply start a new conversation using SMS even though there is an iMessage account associated with that phone number.

I absolutely agree. A text message is preferred when reception is spotty, and this whole thing gets very confusing when your talking to someone who has an iMessage account separate from their phone number and a phone number with SMS.

iPhones send call history to Apple if you’ve enabled iCloud

The Intercept reported via a digital forensics firm that iPhones with iCloud enabled send user’s call history to Apple servers:

Russian digital forensics firm Elcomsoft has found that Apple’s mobile devices automatically send a user’s call history to the company’s servers if iCloud is enabled — but the data gets uploaded in many instances without user choice or notification.

“You only need to have iCloud itself enabled” for the data to be sent, said Vladimir Katalov, CEO of Elcomsoft.

This can be justified. Apple do a number of things with your phone call: they allow you to answer calls on any of your devices, they allow third parties to make VoIP calls that look and feel like normal phone calls, for instance. Apple’s response:

“We offer call history syncing as a convenience to our customers so that they can return calls from any of their devices,” an Apple spokesperson said in an email. “Device data is encrypted with a user’s passcode, and access to iCloud data including backups requires the user’s Apple ID and password. Apple recommends all customers select strong passwords and use two-factor authentication.”

It is still technically accessible to law enforcement via a subpoena, but granted, I believe this is true anyway given that carriers would happily provide call logs too. The mistake Apple made here is not in the actual behavior of the phone, but in the disclosure to users. This should have been made clear to the user, or at least found in their famously long agreements.

Zany genius rocket man releases dreadfully cool video of Tesla’s self-driving car

Tesla have released a video of their self-driving technology via HackerNews. Here’s what it looks like:


It looks just like a Tesla. Compare this with Uber’s self-driving offering:


Given the recent rumor that Apple is pulling out of making the car itself, I think it’s worth noting a critical difference in these two cars: only one of them is cool, and it’s the one with integrated hardware and software.

Ars: “Verizon says its Pixels will get updates at the same time as Google’s”


Ron Amadeo:

A Verizon spokesperson has reached out to Ars with the following corrections about its version of the Pixel:

“… [W]hen Google releases an update, Verizon phones will receive the same update at the same time (much like iOS updates). … [W]e have three apps pre-installed on the phone Go90, My Verizon (which is your account management tool) and Verizon Messages (your messaging app). As you noted, all three can easily be uninstalled by the user.”

Assuming this pans out, it’s the closest anyone has gotten to Apple’s total control over the software on its phones. The only difference: the (removable) pre-installed Verizon crapware apps.

When I last purchased an iPhone from a carrier store, I was pressured to activate the phone in-store so they could install their apps for me, supposedly it was “company mandated policy.” I wanted to do an iCloud restore, I didn’t want to twiddle my thumbs while that happened in their store, so I insisted on getting the phone in the box or I was leaving. I was only allowed to do that on the promise that I’d install “myAT&T” when I was finished with the iCloud restore. Naturally, I didn’t do it, their website works just fine.

Mossberg: “Why does Siri seem so dumb?”

Phones have become good enough that differentiating them to consumers is becoming increasingly difficult. Consider that in pursuit of this, Samsung made a phone which explodes, Apple have been re-releasing the same core phone for 3 years now, and LG have actually marketed their DAC in the new V20. But another critical way these phones compete is in artificially intelligent assistants. Here’s Mossberg’s diagnosis:

It seems to me that Apple has wasted its lead with Siri. And now Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, and others are on the march. Apple has made excited announcements each time it added knowledge domains like sports and movies and restaurants to Siri on the iPhone. But it seems like it hasn’t added any major new topic domains in quite a while.

With regards to the competitive landscape of of artificial intelligent voice assistants, I’d make a case like this: Siri can set timers and alarms, which it excels at, and occasionally to try to respond to a message when typing would be inconvenient, which it is mediocre at best at. I implore you to never try to use it while driving, as it often requires more interaction in time and taps with my phone than typing “yes” or “no” takes on the digital keyboard. Contrastingly, Alexa is great at transcribing, excels in its very limited domains, but cannot perform interesting tasks at the moment other than ordering stuff from Amazon. Similarly, Google’s assistant is probably the best in the market overall in terms of transcribing, understanding, and acting on input, but comes with a series of compromises in privacy and mobile OS that don’t make it worthwhile for me.

More broadly, Mossberg’s piece is unduly pessimistic about Apple’s competitiveness. Apple’s on the right track with Siri extensions – allowing 3rd party developers to interact with their assistant in predictable ways. You can now order an Uber or Lyft with Siri or send money to people, which I consider more important than knowing trivia about the presidential debate or sports games, even if that’s arguably lower hanging fruit. AI assistants are an abstraction which hides a computer’s complexity in a way that I’m not sure will ever be as productive or as fast as a command line or web page, but I look forward to them occupying a a convenient position in our digital lives.

The Intercept: ‘Apple Logs Your iMessage Contacts — and May Share Them With Police’

The Intercept just published a very thoughtful critique of some seemingly incongruous marketing claims and actual behavior from Apple. Starting with:

Apple promises that your iMessage conversations are safe and out of reach from anyone other than you and your friends. But according to a document obtained by The Intercept, your blue-bubbled texts do leave behind a log of which phone numbers you are poised to contact and shares this (and other potentially sensitive metadata) with law enforcement when compelled by court order.


The fact that Apple is able and willing to help the government map the communications networks of its users doesn’t necessarily undermine the company’s posturing (and record) as a guardian of privacy, though this leaked document provides more detail about how the iMessages system can be monitored than has been volunteered in the past. Ideally, customers wouldn’t need to read documents marked “For Official Use Only” in order to know what information Apple may or may not disclose to the police.

If we take the Apple vs. the FBI on face value, it suggests that Apple will fight the government when it believes it’s the right thing to do and that it can win. What’s also rather interesting about Apple’s communication services is that FaceTime was supposed to be open source, which would allow independent review of the security of the protocol. Sadly, the FaceTime protocol never came to be open-sourced, arguably because of patent-trolling. It still seems true given this new evidence that Apple cannot handover the content of your messages, but some important metadata instead.

macOS Sierra ships today


Apple® today announced that macOS™ Sierra, the latest major release of the world’s most advanced desktop operating system, is now available as a free update. macOS Sierra brings Siri® to the Mac® with intelligent and helpful features users know and love from iPhone® and iPad®, along with all-new capabilities designed specifically for use on the desktop. Features like Universal Clipboard, iCloud® Desktop and Documents, Auto Unlock and Apple Pay® on the web help your Mac work even better with other Apple devices. And Photos gets an update with a new Memories feature that automatically creates curated collections of your favorite photos and videos.

The feature I’m most excited for is Auto Unlock!

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 vs. Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Supposedly, part of the reason for the Samsung Galaxy Note 7’s battery problem was that the company was looking to best Apple in a cycle Samsung believed would be dull. Here’s Bloomberg via Gruber:

So the top brass at Samsung Electronics Co., including phone chief D.J. Koh, decided to accelerate the launch of a new phone they were confident would dazzle consumers and capitalize on the opportunity, according to people familiar with the matter. They pushed suppliers to meet tighter deadlines, despite loads of new features, another person with direct knowledge said. The Note 7 would have a high-resolution screen that wraps around the edges, iris-recognition security and a more powerful, faster-charging battery. Apple’s taunts that Samsung was a copycat would be silenced for good.

Putting aside the tragic recall, I was interested in what colossal advantage the Note 7 had over the iPhone 7+ that caused it to fly too close to the sun, so I took a look at some comparisons online. Starting with the battery, the iPhone 7 Plus has 1,960 mAh rated battery, and the Note 7 has a 3500 mAh battery. Samsung’s battery is clearly better. But what about battery life in real-world use? As an example, consider that for Internet browsing on WiFi, the Note 7 lasts 14 hours according the Anandtech and Apple are advertising the iPhone 7 Plus lasts 15 hours. So despite Samsung’s nearly doubly rated battery, it’s arguably the same as the iPhone. Where consumers really care, which is day to day use, the iPhone is a clear victor. In terms of raw technological specifications, the Note 7 clearly wins.

Moving on to the display:

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 has a stunning 5.7-inch QHD Super AMOLED display. It’s the absolute best in the business, bar none. The Quad HD resolution remains the same as before, for a 518ppi pixel density. Where Samsung has improved things is with the inclusion of Mobile HDR, which leads to an even more vivid, high-contrast picture in your videos.

Conversely, Apple’s mobile display technology remains a bit static. The company opts for the same 4.7-inch display with a 326ppi pixel density for the iPhone 7, and a 5.5-inch display with a 401ppi pixel density for the iPhone 7 Plus. It’s also used the same IPS LCD panel technology for years now, and it finds itself trailing Samsung on pretty much all counts.

The Note 7 is definitely better, especially when you consider that Samsung’s bigger and brighter display is also curved. As far as I can tell, the best use case of a display that dense is virtual reality headsets where the screen will be optically zoomed by lenses and right next to your face, meaning the iPhone’s mere 326ppi screen will show its pixels much before the Note 7’s 518ppi screen. I’d argue most users do not care about this, but indisputably the Note 7’s display is better.

What about the camera?

The Samsung Galaxy Note 7 packs exactly the same camera as the Galaxy S7. We’re talking the same 12-megapixel unit with phase detection, Dual Pixels, OIS, an f/1.7 lens, and a 1/2.6-inch sensor – and we’re not complaining one bit.


But the real advance can be found in the shape of the iPhone 7 Plus, which adds a second camera to the rear of the device. This dual-lens setup combines a telephoto camera with a wide-angle camera – both 12-megapixel – to create an effective optical zoom option. They can also combine to allow you to alter the focus after the picture has been taken, much like a Lytro light field camera.

So roughly equal here in terms of megapixels, with the only obvious advantage being Apple’s optical zoom. This is something Apple clearly got very right: the camera is something that almost everyone cares about, including the people looking to push the limits of what’s possible with a phone.

What about performance? First of all, RAM:

The Galaxy Note 7 does have double the RAM of the iPhone 7 – 4GB versus 2GB, with the iPhone 7 Plus having 3GB, apparently – but that’s never been a particularly useful metric for comparison.

Double is definitely better. What about CPU? (via John Gruber)

iPhone 7/7 Plus 3,450 5,630
Samsung Galaxy S7 1,806 5,213
Samsung Galaxy Note 7 1,786 5,228
Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge 1,744 5,203
Huawei P9 1,729 4,735
OnePlus 3 1,698 4,015

Apple’s the clear victor in CPU benchmarks. But none of this is really what consumers care about. How long does Angry Birds and co. take to load on both devices? I haven’t tried this myself, but embarrassingly, in real-world app launch tests, the new iPhones lap Samsung’s latest offering:

As you can see in the video, the iPhone 7 doesn’t just completely dominate against the Galaxy Note 7 — it laps it by completing its second run of opening the apps before the Galaxy S7 has even finished its first. That’s despite the fact that the iPhone 7 has a mere 2GB of RAM compared to the Galaxy Note 7’s 4GB. It somewhat confirms Apple’s claim that designing software and hardware together improves performance and means the phone can perform well with less RAM.

I’m beginning to see a trend emerging. With the exception of the CPU and camera, the Note 7 is clearly better than the iPhone in a number of ways. (Not to mention it comes with both an audio jack and a smart stylus and a curved display!) But the problem is that Samsung has been trying to improve the phone when they should be improving the user experience. Instead of worrying about the mAh of the battery, they should have been worried about the number of hours on the web or on Netflix that people can have. What I find most embarrassing about this is that Samsung is blaming Apple’s “dull iPhone” for the Note 7’s bad year, and the iPhone is still arguably better in ways that most users care about. Some of these problems are more with Android than with Samsung: those battery life benchmarks reveal that Android seems to be doing double the amount of work that iOS is doing for browsing the web, and that’s not allowing Samsung’s battery marvels to shine. If Samsung ever launches their own mobile operating system which is only 50% better than Android at most tasks users care about, the iPhone would need to be careful. Until then, Apple can ship phones with half the battery life, half the screen resolution, half the RAM, and the same camera as Samsung offerings, and still have the courage left to remove the headphone jack. I’m very happy with my iPhone 6 Plus, but everyone whose getting an iPhone 7 is getting the best smart phone experience money can buy.

iPhone 7 follow up

The on-stage reasons for removing the headphone jack were space, being antiquated, and the advent of wireless. Ben Thompson brought a BuzzFeed article to my attention that goes more in-depth about the space portion of this justification:

Apple executives told BuzzFeed that removing the headphone jack made it possible to bring that image stabilization to the smaller iPhone 7, gave room for a bigger battery, and eliminated a trouble-spot when it came to making the iPhone 7 water-resistant. It’s a solid argument, albeit one not quite worth Schiller’s hubris.

It also adds easier water resistance as a benefit of removing the jack, which I believe is probably true even given the other devices which are water resistant with headphone jacks.

Thompson also raises an excellent point about the iPhone 7 Plus camera. Because there are two sensors, with some clever software which combines triangulated information about the subject with clever guesses about depth, it’s possible to use the iPhone camera to created 3D imagery, even if only very slightly (the greater the space between the two sensors, the more you can triangulate and capture the 3D scene). Here’s how he puts it:

[W]hat Apple didn’t say was that they are releasing the first mass-market virtual reality camera. The same principles that make artificial bokeh possible also go into making imagery for virtual reality headsets. Of course you probably won’t be able to use the iPhone 7 Plus camera in this way — Apple hasn’t released a headset, for one — but when and if they do the ecosystem will already have been primed, and you can bet FaceTime VR will be be an iPhone seller.

What also struck me about this presentation was how conspicuously Schiller brought up machine learning as what powers some of these new features. This, along with artificial intelligence and virtual reality, are the new hotness in the Valley, and it seems to me that Apple is making long-term plays and hedges with the iPhone 7 Plus camera sensor.

iPhone 7

There was a lot announced at Apple’s event today, and I’d like to offer this piece as a knee-jerk analysis of what was announced. Before I dig in, I’d like to note that this was the first Apple presentation that used San Francisco as the font, which I think is a great change.


One of the most innovative products announced at Apple’s events today was not a phone, but an accessory which will conveniently upset users which suddenly find themselves without a headphone jack on their phone. Here’s how Apple introduces their new headphones:

Apple® today introduced AirPods™, innovative new wireless headphones that use advanced technology to reinvent how we listen to music, make phone calls, enjoy TV shows and movies, play games and interact with Siri®, providing a wireless audio experience not possible before.

Removal of headphone jack notwithstanding, I am excited to try out these AirPods. I’ve believed for a while now that Bluetooth wireless headphones have become “good enough” when compared to their wired counterparts. Admittedly, there are still problems, specifically the user experience around pairing, especially for multiple devices. While the battery life seems low and the price tag high when compared to similar products, the fit and finish of an Apple product seems present in this product. For instance, with regards to the user experience around pairing, when you pair your AirPods with your phone, that pairing is propagated across your Apple devices using iCloud, so you can use them with your other devices too. Also, you can use just one AirPod, perhaps as an earpiece, to be more inconspicuous, to use it more casually, or to wait while your other AirPod charges.

The bottom line is that I will get myself a pair of AirPods – I’ve wanted a gadget like this for some time, and Apple appears to have nailed the execution on Bluetooth earbuds.


But what of the new iPhone? Here’s how Apple put it:

The new iPhone features new advanced camera systems that take pictures like never before, more power and performance with the best battery life ever in an iPhone, immersive stereo speakers, wide color system from camera to display, two new beautiful finishes, and is the first water and dust resistant iPhone.

What stands out to me about the iPhone updates is that Apple finally seems comfortable with iPhone updates being just that – updates. In the past, the marketing materials and surrounding press all seemed to expect and to be delivering another “breakout/breakthrough/revolutionary” product, where the iPhone 7 seems comfortable with being an all-things-considered total upgrade. The new “Black” is absolutely beautiful, I much prefer it to Space Gray. The stereo speakers, improved display, improved camera, improved processor, and improved battery are all great – Apple really delivered an excellent phone.

Of course, the most glaring change to the every day consumer isn’t even listed in the press release, and that’s the omission of the headphone jack. I’m not personally opposed to removal of the headphone jack, I’ve been using Bose QC 35s for some time now and with great results. However, if I made music on my iPhone and wasn’t able to use flat-response headphones (necessarily with a jack) while charging my device, I’d be pretty upset. The problem for music creators with wireless is latency – when you’re starting and stoping a lot, the delay between hitting play and hearing audio in wireless headphones, even if measurable in the 100s of milliseconds, is infuriating and probably insurmountable for the foreseeable future. Once you start using monitors which process the audio before sending it as output, you can just forget about using Bluetooth, you need a wire.

The way that Phil Schiller justified this change was principally “courage”, but ancillarily having more space for the battery, the 3.5mm jack being “old”, and wireless being the future. The space justification is interesting in that this device is not any thinner than the last iPhone, which included a 3.5mm jack, and also on grounds that I bet this changes makes its way into bigger devices like the iPad, where space isn’t so tight. The “old” justification is not so convincing – the use of pixels, the use of cellular networks, the idea of a CPU are all “old” but still somehow relevant and important. Schiller is right about wireless being the future however, which is the only way I can interpret the “courage” line as arrogant and tone-deaf. The exciting thing about this, to me, is that the market will decide. I imagine Apple has done their homework, and found that not enough people care about the 3.5mm jack to justify its continued existence. I would much prefer to see usage numbers rather than hear about hand-wavy “courage” to justify this change.

The bottom line is that I won’t be upgrading my iPhone 6 Plus to the iPhone 7, but there’s definitely never been a better time to get an iPhone if you’ve wanted one. If I were going for a iPhone, however, it’d be an iPhone 7 Plus in Black, because the increased screen size, battery, and better camera all make for a better phone that the smaller sibling. Like Stephen Hackett, I wouldn’t go for the jet black:

I really like the look of the jet black in photos, but between this note and photos of the matte black option, I’m going matte.

Apple Watch

Here’s Apple’s take on the updates to the Watch:

Apple Watch Series 2 is packed with incredible fitness and health capabilities including a water resistance 50 meter rating for swimming,*  and built-in GPS so users can now run without an iPhone®. Apple Watch Series 2 also features a dramatically brighter display and a powerful dual-core processor.

The grand irony here to me as an avid Apple Watch user is that across Apple’s entire product line, from their professional-grade desktops to their bottom-of-the-line smart phones, Apple are obsessed with thinness to the detriment of every other metric. Number of ports? Well, we better remove a few in favor of being thinner. Size of battery? Well, battery improvements mean it doesn’t have to be as big, so better make it thinner. And yet, in the one product where thinness really matters to me, on the device which I think stands the most to gain from shaving a couple centimeters, Apple adds more power. These updates to the watch are much needed – third party apps are very slow, I must admit I’ve found the display ever so slightly lacking (but no showstopper by any means), and the experience of having your phone and your watch while running definitely needed rectifying.

The bottom line is that I will not be upgrading my Series 1, but I greatly look forward to getting watchOS 3 on there.


AT&T, Apple, Google to work on ‘robocall’ crackdown

For a couple of different reasons, the frequency which I received automated telemarketing is increasing, and I find it quite annoying. The phone call used to be something casual, when I was a kid, I’d call people just to see what was going on with them. Because text communication and cell phones, this is no longer necessary, and in fact, I suspect most people find phone calls rather intrusive, what with the ringing and having to pause talking to everyone else. Which is why telemarketing is so annoying. Thankfully, Reuters:

The chief executive of AT&T (T.N) will announce Friday that 33 companies including the telecom giant, Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) are joining an effort with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to crackdown on robocalls.

Despite these companies actually holding one another by the throat, these fierce rivals all agree: robocalls suck.

The upcoming Apple products

Mark Gurman reporting for Bloomberg reveals (via Katie Floyd) that his sources indicate:

  • Dual camera lens on the Plus-sized iPhone;
  • A touch-sensitive home button which doesn’t “click”;
  • The removal of the headphone jack;
  • An industrial design similar to the iPhones from the last two years.

If these are all true, and everything else being equal, I will probably not upgrade my iPhone this year. I have a 6 Plus that’s still going really strong despite constant abuse in the form of not having a case, always using Bluetooth, using a lot of wireless hotspot, lots of graphics-intensive video games (Grand Theft Auto games, mostly), and other demanding uses. For photography I really care about, I tend to use my Nikon D5200, and the iPhone 6 Plus camera is good enough for casual snaps.

I’m ready to be really wowed by Apple’s new Mac offerings however. Also from Mark Gurman (via Michael Tsai via Hacker News):

The most significant addition to the new MacBook Pro is a secondary display above the keyboard that replaces the standard function key row. Instead of physical keys, a strip-like screen will present functions on an as-needed basis that fit the current task or application.

Apple’s learned a lot about how to make a great touch screen, but thought of replacing the power and escape buttons with software is not exactly what I had in mind with new Macs. I was hoping instead for top-of-the-line CPUs, GPUs, and higher default RAM and disk space. Perhaps the strip will have some Force Touch technology built into it that’ll give tactile feedback to those power users expecting to have a key there. I’m also uncertain of the light strip as a user experience considering that I do not look at the keyboard when using a computer, and arguably shouldn’t have to. This discussion does remind me of this classic XKCD:


Alleged iPhone 7 leak has no headphone jack and a big camera

It’s a very grainy, short video, but MacRumors discovered a video purporting to display the iPhone 7. Here’s the big camera:Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 7.36.36 PM

And here’s the lack of a headphone jack:

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 7.37.08 PM

This runs against the speculation that there’d be two camera sensors, however I imagine it is possible that this leak could be of the regular instead of the Plus size, which could be different.

This also suggests to me that if Apple do not ship with a headphone jack, they’ll ship with an in-the-box alternative. There’s no way consumers are going to be satisfied with a $700 device which doesn’t have headphones in the box. However, as a user of the tremendous Bose QC-35s, which are wireless and noise canceling, I can attest that Bluetooth is firmly “good enough” now, much like WiFi was when it achieved critical mass.

Safari 10 implements native browser extensions

Daniel Dilger, writing for Apple Insider, via Dave Mark:

On both macOS Sierra 10.12 and today’s El Capitan 10.11.5 (when Safari 10 is installed), Safari will support App Extensions built from a combination of JavaScript, CSS and native code written in Objective-C or Swift.


More importantly, the new App Extensions architecture enables developers to distribute Safari Extensions as part of their app through the App Store.

A clear trend in this year’s WWDC was the number of different extension points and distribution channels Apple is opening up: iMessage Apps, Maps extensions, Safari extensions, third-party Siri, to name just a few. The Safari Extensions, in particular, are a new approach to distributing browser plugins compared to both Chrome and Firefox, as you can write compiled code for them!

Apple discontinue the MacBook, then the Thunderbolt Display

On Monday, Apple discontinued the legacy MacBook Pro:

Apple Stores are beginning to remove the 13-inch non-Retina MacBook Pro from their showfloors, in what may be a sign the company is preparing to completely phase out the product with a spinning optical disc drive, AppleInsider discovered on Monday.

Now, they’ve discontinued the very underpowered Thunderbolt Display:

Apple today announced that it is discontinuing its Thunderbolt Display, the large external display many use to connect to MacBooks or other Macs for extra screen real estate. This is very likely to fuel speculation (which has been ongoing) that Apple will soon launch a 4K or 5K version of the display.

Both of these are excellent news for people that want new hardware! To be conservative, I’m calling new MacBooks and a 5K external display at least by September but potentially as early as late-July.

Removing the headphone jack

There’s a lot of buzz around the next iPhone not having a headphone jack. In particular, John Gruber responded to Nilay Patel’s arguments against removing the port:

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

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

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

They both miss the mark, in my opinion. Replacing the headphone jack with another jack doesn’t significantly change user experience, it’s just another way of doing the same thing. In fact Nilay’s right, if it’s just a matter of replacing the jack, it’s kind of stupid.

What I find more interesting is this portion of the discussion:

2. Wireless headphones and speakers are fine, not great

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

Getting rid of the headphone jack and shipping with great wireless headphones would significantly improve the experience. The biggest problem, as is often the case, is charging the headphones, although perhaps the iPhone could charge the headphones?

Perhaps this is one reason I’m not in charge of the next iPhone, but as the owner of Bose wireless headphones, I can tell you that charging your headphones is a small cost to pay for wireless convenience.

Apple’s unique political independence

Hayley Tsukayama from the Wall Street Journal makes the case that Apple is uniquely disposed to take political stances because, unlike Facebook and Google, people don’t look to Apple for neutral information, they buy Apple’s hardware:

Apple, however, is still largely a company that makes phones and the personal stuff that comes with them, rather than dealing in information. Although Apple is making inroads into the publishing business with Apple News, its platform doesn’t have nearly the reach of Facebook or Google — and therefore, people don’t look to it to be an arbiter of information in the same way. And so, despite the growing activism of Apple chief executive Tim Cook, there are still plenty of people who use iPhones and don’t agree with Apple’s stances on political issues.

Before we place Apple on a moral pedestal, be warned that doing business with any of the tech giants is a moral compromise. For instance, while Apple’s political independence and stance on privacy stem from their making hardware, so does their treatment of the makers of that hardware. This independence also grants them the ability to fight against paying corporate taxes.

Being principally a hardware manufacture is part of Apple’s independence in the political sphere and the public eye, but this produces the stronger reason of Apple’s not being incentivized to compromise their users. This is what I think is exceptional about Apple.

WWDC Diary Day 1: Keynote, Platform SotU, and Design Awards

This is my first WWDC, and I’m impressed by how efficiently the 5000 person event runs. The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium comfortably hosted every executive, press person, and developer with room to spare. I got a great seat for the keynote, being right up at the front on the second level, and the sound, lighting, and presentation system made the event a pleasure to watch. Everything from the food to the WiFi to releasing the session and lab schedule to making the betas available appeared to happen effortlessly. I’m sure a lot of work went on behind the scenes to make this happen, which I’m grateful for.

Moving on to the content, this WWDC showcased Tim Cook’s Apple at its absolute best: all four of the category-defining products moved forward in titanic leaps. Before we dive into the software, there was no new hardware. This is a grand shame, but I understand why: WWDC is a software event (and Apple are going to refresh their whole Mac line with a press release very soon, right? Right? RIGHT?). In terms of the software, all of iOS, (the newly renamed) macOS, watchOS, and tvOS have many great new features, APIs, and opportunities for app developers.

Let’s go platform-by-platform.

watchOS 3

Glances are gone, long app start up time is gone, and the “Dock” takes advantage of these two changes. The idea here is that apps are now so fast to start that a multitasking tray with the live first screen of your app. Also, there is now a new input style called Scribbles which lets you “write” letters on the watch and it will translate them into letters. Additionally, there are now dedicated watchOS apps for Reminders and Find My Friends, an emergency feature called “SOS”, and Activity sharing.

The structural changes to the interaction model for watchOS is right on point: previously, if I wanted to check the weather, I could: look at the complication, open the glance, or open the app. Now, if the complication isn’t present or doesn’t have enough information, you tap what was previously the “friends” button to reveal the Dock, and you can immediately see new information, or go into the app if you need to interact with it.

The Scribble input method is a welcome change that I’ll need to use to see if it can be useful. If it’s fast and accurate enough for writing short messages without tiring my arm, I’ll be a fan and use it a lot. I don’t think I’ll use Activity sharing at all, in part because I don’t use the Watch for fitness as much as a notification management tool, so I don’t have much to add there. I’ll use Reminders, probably not Find My Friends, and hopefully not SOS.

tvOS 10

Now it’s possible to sign-in to your cable provider once, and all apps get access to that authentication now. In addition to allowing more streaming of previous shows and revealing all the apps provided by your cable deal, they’ve added more live streams. For those people that find the Apple TV interface too bright at night now have the option to turn the interface dark. There was some controversy when the Apple TV first came out that the Remote app didn’t work, which Apple quickly patched while promising a fuller experience, and have now shipped that full Siri Remote app. Finally, there are some improvements to Siri.

Perhaps Apple was hoping to supplant cable providers and so purposely didn’t ship single-sign-on on day one, but as a heavy user of Apple TV, it was by far the biggest pain point that every new app required getting my computer to get up and running. It wasn’t that big a deal, my roommates and I got pretty good at working together every time an app decided we had to authenticate again, but I certainly look forward to not doing that anymore. I also look forward to finding out what other apps are available through the cable service, it’s difficult to discover apps I can use today.

The new Remote app with accelerometer and Siri support is great. It means that any iPhone owner is now the owner of a fully featured remote for the tvOS games. The tone and style of the games on tvOS reminds me of the Wii – casual party games. I hope this catches on with users and the games become more fun, akin to Mario Party. Less casual games also have reason to be excited too, as you can now require that the player of your game have a standard game controller type too. This sacrifices some fragmentation to allow apps to be more varied and take best advantage of whatever hardware they need, and I think it’s a compromise worth making.

macOS 10.12 Sierra

The features that stood out to me about the newly renamed macOS were:

  • Unlock with an Apple Watch;
  • Apple Pay in Safari;
  • Picture-in-picture for videos;
  • Automatic syncing of desktop to iCloud;
  • Automatic syncing of clipboards across devices;
  • Storing unused files in iCloud to download on-demand;
  • Tabs everywhere;
  • and Siri!

It seems to me like macOS lives in the shadow of iOS: these features are great, but I’d argue more drastic improvements are needed. For instance, it didn’t make the keynote, but Apple are updating the filesystem from HFS+ to their new APFS, which is great news. To be fair, the Siri SDK and functionality is exactly the sort of improvement the Mac needs, but it does feel quite late, especially considering that it’s been on iOS so long, and that Cortana and Google Now have long since shipped. I dislike the automatic syncing and optimizing to iCloud features because I like having more direct control and access to my files, but I’m sure people will love those features (I do recommend keeping a separate hard drive and a backup instead, however). This release is a great start, but there is much more that needs to be done: updating OpenGL, modernizing AppKit (have you ever tried using NSTableView?). and making the hardware and software usable by professionals in virtual reality, video, and other fields.

iOS 10

This is a mammoth release for iOS. The biggest focus was in the Messages app, where you can now:

  • Send handwritten notes;
  • Add animations to your messages;
  • Add “likes” to messages;
  • Annotate images before sending them;
  • Attach stickers to messages or images;
  • Automatically replace words with emoji;
  • Download and create apps that run within iMessage.

Messages, more specifically iMessage, has become a platform that strives to compete directly with Facebook’s Messenger. I look forward to using this version of iMessage, and I’m curious about what is possible in iMessage apps. The one fatal downside today of iMessage as a platform is the single-platform-edness of it (Apple platforms). There were rumors that Apple was going to announce iMessage for Android, and there is precedent for something like that now with Apple Music for Android. However, I don’t think iMessage for Android will ever happen, because it’s not a service Apple makes money on and I think it keeps many people on iOS. However, long-term, I’d argue having a truly competitive messaging platform would be good for Apple. Consider that selling apps and services on a cross-platform iMessage would probably make more money long-term than keeping users captive and not having developer interest. This feature will be great for people who only know people with iPhones, but I can’t blame Apple for not expanding one of their most valuable apps to competitors’ products.

Other improvements include:

  • Creating extensions for selling stuff within the Maps app;
  • Improved traffic handling in Maps;
  • Search for stuff on the way during navigation in Maps;
  • A new Home app for controlling your connected home products;
  • Revamped Apple Music;
  • Raise your phone to wake up the OS;
  • Increased use of 3D Touch throughout the system;
  • Interactive notifications withs views;
  • Better predictions above the keyboard;
  • A redesigned news;
  • AI powered Photos improvements;
  • Apple Pay in Safari;

These are all magnificent improvements that users will love, I think Apple did a great job in all-around improving iOS. The iMessage improvements are topical, fun additions that will convince people to upgrade, and the OS-level improvements and new APIs are a welcome change for power users and developers.

If your smartwatch is slow, they blew it

Nilay Patel:

[The Apple Watch] was slow when it was first announced, it was slow when it came out, and it stayed slow when Watch OS 2.0 arrived. When I reviewed it last year, the slowness was so immediately annoying that I got on the phone with Apple to double check their performance expectations before making “it’s kind of slow” the opening of the review.

Apps are slow, and have been slow since Watch OS first launched. I’m very critical of Apple’s strategy of “the future of everything is apps” approach to the Watch and the TV: the best parts of the Apple Watch and the Apple TV are, in my opinion, not yet the “apps”:

  1. The Apple Watch’s complications and glances are terrific, they’re fast, up-to-date, and are quicker than my iPhone, and so they’re used. Namely, Fantastical’s calendar complication and Dark Sky’s weather complication are tremendous. The apps are slow, difficult to find, and require me to keep my wrist 90 degrees from my face for too long.
  2. The Apple TV’s greatest features are that I can ask Siri for anything and I’m taken directly to the content, I don’t care what bin it’s in or what service it’s sourced from, just do what a TV is supposed to and play the thing. Having said that, I’ve had a lot of fun with Flappy Bird but it’s no Grand Theft Auto 5, to be a little unfair.

John Gruber makes a similar point:

The things on Apple Watch that people actually like and use are the things that aren’t slow (notifications, activity tracking and goals, Apple Pay, complications, maybe Glances) and the things that are slow are the things people don’t use (apps, especially). Apple should have either cut the slow features from the original product, or waited to launch the product until all the features were fast.

I’m curious to see how apps play out with the release of the next Watch, whenever that is. Specifically, will we see the ability for third party developers to do more with what has been proven to be good, or will apps somehow be made better? It’s going to be a great WWDC!