‘The Google Pixel Is Too Dumb and Ugly to Replace Your iPhone’ ➝

Michael Nunez, writing for Gizmodo:

If you’re like me, and have avoided the iPhone all these years, it’s time to give in. The iPhone is definitively better this year. The current roster of flagship Android phones are a complete joke. The Galaxy S7 at least looks nice, but it’s already more than six months old. If you must buy an Android phone, the Pixel makes a strong case. But I can no longer heartily endorse buying an Android, because if this is the best phone available, it’s time to move on.


Apple’s AirPort in the Age of Mesh Networking ➝

Rene Ritchie, writing for iMore:

Apple’s AirPorts are currently pre-mesh. You get an AirPort Extreme and, if it doesn’t reach every room in your house, you get an AirPort Express — or another Extreme — and cobble it all together. It’s… quaint. Perhaps even antiquated. And it’s no longer the best experience for Apple’s customers.

I think Apple’s AirPort routers are still great products, but they aren’t the best on the market anymore. In the three years since they were last updated, mesh has become the high water mark. I haven’t seen any rumors of updates to the AirPort lineup, but I have to imagine Apple’s working on it. They’d be foolish not to.

What to Expect at Apple’s October 27 Event ➝

Mark Gurman sheds some light on what he expects to see at next week’s Apple event. Updates to the iMac and MacBook Air are possible, but the headliner will certainly be the long-rumored MacBook Pro with the touchscreen function row.

I saw some skepticism in my Twitter timeline after Gurman’s piece was published — specifically regarding the MacBook Air. Here’s my take: the MacBook Air is Apple’s low-priced, high-volume offering. It’s perfect for education and enterprise customers, as well as consumers looking for an inexpensive macOS-powered machine. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

Much like the non-Retina MacBook Pro, the Air will stick around for as long as there are customers demanding a notebook with legacy ports. But I don’t think we’ll see any major improvements in the new Air, only relatively minor upgrades like the addition of USB-C

Apple Plans to Launch New Macs at an October 27 Event ➝

Ina Fried, reporting for Recode:

Apple is planning to introduce new Macs at an Oct. 27 event, sources confirmed to Recode.

The move had long been expected, given that the company released MacOS Sierra last month but had yet to introduce any new computer models sporting the software. It also comes just in time for Apple to have the new products on sale for the full holiday season.

I’m not sure it’s fair to say that this move “had long been expected.” Yes, it was very likely that Apple would introduce new Macs before the end of the year. But many thought they would be announced with a press release, website update, and private press briefings. The existence of a proper event was not a done-deal.

My Apple Watch Setup

Earlier this month I saw a tweet from Mayur Dhaka, in which he mentions that he’d love to read about how Apple Watch owners manage their setup. I then noticed that Matt Birchler, the biggest Watch enthusiast I know, had shared his and I knew I had to do the same — if only because of my wacky app layout.

I saved Mayur’s tweet and Matt’s piece to Instapaper as a reminder to write about the topic. As these things tend to go, it took a couple weeks for them to resurface. But, the following is my Apple Watch setup.

Watch Faces and Complications

Apple Watch Faces, Modular and Utility

I have two Watch Faces that I use for different contexts. I have Modular, which I use while I’m at work, and Utility for everything else. I like Modular at work because it’s so data dense and glanceable. It gives me all the information that I need in large, clear type.

Utility is great for my time outside of work because of my differing priorities. I care much more about how attractive my Watch face is than the clarity of its complications. I’d rather have the time, displayed in a beautiful form, take up the bulk of my Watch’s screen than clutter the interface with a bunch of information. I still like having complications, but I don’t need them to be front-and-center, like they are with Modular.

I make use of the following complications:

The first three complications appear on both Faces. I consider these to be essential pieces of information that I want regardless of what context I’m in. Timer and Fantastical only appear on my Modular face. Fantastical is useful because I have reoccurring, work-related events on my calendar that I need to stay on top of and I frequently use the Timer to keep track of my breaks. The Sunrise/Sunset complication only appears on my Utility face and is invaluable for coordinating outdoor activities.

Dock and App Layout

Apple Watch Dock and App Layout

I’ve quickly taken to the Dock on watchOS 3. It’s a far better experience for opening apps than swimming through the sea of icons in the app launcher. Most of the apps I use regularly on my Watch already appear in complications, but there are certainly some that are a far better experience when they take over the whole screen.

Here’s what I currently have in my Dock:

These are my most-used, non-complication-worthy, apps. I could probably add a few more to the list, but I prefer to keep my Dock as small as possible. I’d rather not swipe through a dozen apps to get to the one I’m looking for. For me, seven apps in my Dock felt like a good balance between utility and usability.

As for my app layout, mine is a bit unconventional. I keep all of my apps in three rows, that extend to the left and right, with the Clock app in the center. This is the only way I’ve found that allows me to keep some semblance of organization inside of the terrible honeycomb icon interface. I can swipe to whatever app I need without ever feeling lost. I keep unused apps on the outskirts, followed by my complication and dock apps, with the everything else sitting near the center.

RAW iPhone Photo Apps ➝

Just as he did when content blockers became available, Ben Brooks has done the legwork and tested all of the camera apps that support shooting in RAW on iOS 10.

The Early Days of AI Computing ➝

Stephen Hackett, on Apple’s focus on Siri’s existing feature-set:

I understand Apple wanting to make sure that Siri’s core functionality of controlling your iOS device keeps getting better. That stuff should be bulletproof, but we’re five years into Siri’s life. The company should be moving past these features and making Siri smarter about the world around us.

Here’s the problem with the statement above: it seems to be under the assumption that voice-based AI systems are no longer in their early stages — that five years is long enough to have the core functionality, essentially, finished. But I just don’t think that’s true. This is a complicated feature that may take far longer to perfect than any other computer science problem we’ve seen before. We’re still, very much, in the early days.

Instagram Introduces Windows 10 Tablet App ➝

From the Instagram weblog:

In April, we brought Instagram to Windows 10 Mobile. Now, Instagram for Windows 10 tablets includes all of your favorite features, including Instagram Stories, Direct and Explore. And you’ll be able to capture, edit and share directly from your Windows 10 tablet device.

It’s astonishing that Instagram released a tablet app on Windows before an iPad app. This has to be some kind of joke, right?

Steve Jobs Talks About Managing People ➝

This is a video from 2010’s D8 conference, in which Steve Jobs discusses Apple’s management system with Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg. I came across this video a few days ago and I was amazed at how much of my own thinking falls in-line with his.

This is my favorite line from the video:

If you want to hire great people and have them stay working for you, you have to let them make a lot of decision and you have to be run by ideas not hierarchy. The best ideas have to win, otherwise good people don’t stay.

I can’t emphasize enough just how important this concept is. A lot of companies in the world would be far more successful if this was one of their core principles.

The Best Lock Screen Widgets for iOS ➝

A great list of iOS widgets by Lory Gil. I make extensive use of widgets in both my iPhone and iPad, checking them several times each day. Here’s my current setup on iPhone:

And on iPad, I also use Omnistat’s battery widget, PCalc, and CornerTube.

Griffin iTrip Bluetooth ➝

I bought this little Bluetooth adapter after Bradley Chambers recommended it on Tools & Toys. It arrived yesterday and, I have to say, it’s fantastic. I just plugged it in and ran the audio cable to my car’s aux-in jack. Conveniently, my car’s cigarette lighter and aux-in jack are located inside the same compartment, which means I can keep the entire setup out of sight.

After a quick pairing process in my iPhone’s settings, I was good to go. Now, every time I start my car, the adapter automatically pairs with my iPhone and I can start playing music or podcasts immediately.

I’ve looked at other Bluetooth adapters in the past, but most of them include funky playback control clusters that they expect you to mount inside your car. I don’t know if the folks at these companies have ever actually looked inside a car, but there isn’t a great place for them. The Griffin iTrip doesn’t include these unnecessary eye sores and leaves the playback controls on your device.

If you’re looking for a wireless in-car audio solution, I highly recommend giving this one a try.

iPhone Downsizing ➝

Shawn Blanc, on switching from the iPhone 6s Plus to the 4.7-inch iPhone 7:

However, as awesome as it was to have the larger screen, the better battery life, and the nicer camera… it just wasn’t worth the tradeoff for the unwieldy size. More often than not I found myself frustrated by my inability to wrangle the phone with one hand and just how clumsy I felt when trying to use it.

After a good year-long run with the iPhone 6s Plus, I’ve returned to the regular size iPhone. And I have no regrets.

I would love to have longer battery life in my iPhone, but not if it means carrying around a more clumsy device.

The Last Mac I Will Ever Own ➝

Matt Birchler:

Something hit me when I was shopping for this new Mac: this is probably the last Mac I will ever buy. No, not because I’m going to jump ship for Windows, but because the Mac I have today is going to be good enough at everything I expect us to see from macOS going forward.

This falls in line with my thinking as well. I currently own a Mac mini and MacBook Air, both from 2011, and I expect I’ll only ever purchase one more Mac in my lifetime. Although I’ve fully embraced the iOS lifestyle, I don’t expect to be able to live without a Mac for at least a few more years. There’s still a handful of tasks that just aren’t possible on iOS, yet.

I’ll probably make my last Mac purchase sometime next year. What I buy will certainly depend on what Apple’s offering, but I think it’s a safe bet that I’ll have a MacBook Pro or iMac in my future. Here’s my list of requirements, I won’t buy a new Mac unless it includes:

  • At least 16GB of RAM.
  • At least 1TB of solid state storage (or a Fusion drive).
  • A Retina display.

Hopefully we’ll see new Mac hardware next year that will fit the bill at a reasonable price point.

Canceling Netflix

I’ve been a cord cutter for my entire adult life. When I moved into an apartment of my own, at the age of 18, I signed up for cable internet from Time Warner. They tried to up-sell me into one of their bundled deals, but I didn’t want any part of it. I didn’t need anything more than internet access.

At the time — 2006 — I was using a cell phone on my mother’s plan and most of my media viewing was coming from alternative means. Whether it be the discs that Netflix sent me in the mail, video podcasts, TV and movies from the iTunes Store, or video files acquired from a certain pirate-themed website. I didn’t have any reason to pay for cable.

As time has passed, my interest in acquiring content nefariously has all but disappeared. There isn’t much of a point to it anymore. Most of the major content creators have their movies and TV shows available online in an easy to obtain and inexpensive form. It’s taken a long time to get here, but I think the film and TV industry are finally to a point where they can compete with piracy.

Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, and numerous offerings from just about every provider has made cord cutting an easy decision for a lot of families. It’s usually far less expensive than a cable package and can be consumed on any device you can think of — with a far better interface, to boot. And the best part is, each person can pick and choose which services are best for them.

What’s interesting about that last point is, just about every person I know has a Netflix account — or at the very least, access to one. As the first major player in the subscription streaming video market, Netflix is the default choice for most cord cutters and those even flirting with the idea. The service has mass appeal because of its savvy content dealings and name recognition. And in recent years, they’ve kept subscribers loyal by producing their own shows which are available exclusively on their service.

But I’m here to tell you that I’ve done the unthinkable. Last week, I canceled my Netflix subscription.

There wasn’t any one thing in particular that pushed me to make this decision. The biggest of the bunch, though, is that it had been several weeks since I even launched the app on my Apple TV. Netflix is a wonderful service with plenty of great content, but lately I’ve spent all of my time watching Hulu, YouTube, and my collection of archived DVDs in my Mac mini’s iTunes Library.

I don’t need Netflix anymore because there isn’t anything on the service that’s grabbing my attention the way that Regular Show and Top Chef are on Hulu; Giant Bomb and LinusTechTips are on YouTube; or Boy Meets World is in my iTunes Library. I’d rather watch those than anything Netflix has available.

It’s also worth noting that I was going to be charged for my next month of service — the day after I canceled, coincidentally — at the new $9.99 rate. I had been grandfathered into the old $7.99 rate, but September was the last month they would be honoring the lower price. I can’t say this had any bearing on my decision, though, because I had already decided to cancel when I found out about it.

Don’t get me wrong, this is unlikely to be the end of Netflix for me. Hulu and YouTube have been fantastic lately, but all streaming services grow stale eventually. Once I’ve exhausted the options available from my current services, I’ll probably come back to Netflix. When will that be? I don’t know. But in the mean time, I’ll be more than happy to have an extra $10 in my pocket at the end of each month.

Open Floor Plans ➝

Brent Simmons:

Here’s why I work in an office: when I’m around other people — it doesn’t matter who they are — I feel a constant low-simmering level of anxiety. And I find it extremely difficult to be productive when I feel any level of anxiety at all.

Same. I find it incredibly difficult to work while other people are milling about in the same room as me.

5GB Is the New 16GB ➝

Stephen Hackett:

I’m no data center expert, but bumping everyone to even 10 GB would be a huge increase in disk space needed at Apple’s data centers. I don’t know what that sort of change would cost, but I can imagine it’d be huge based on Apple’s sheer number of customers. Whatever slice of profit off of iPhone hardware goes to paying for iCloud storage would certainly take a hit.

I’m sure this is why a change hasn’t been made.

However, I think it’s something the company should consider biting the bullet on. I hope that something is underway to increase the space Apple provides for free.

The problem, for Apple, is that they aren’t a company built on server infrastructure. They’re incredible at building hardware and writing software, but implementing giant data centers isn’t a part of their DNA like it is for Google.

The offer of unlimited photo storage is a brilliant way for Google to play to their strengths. They can’t compete with Apple from a hardware materials standpoint — at least, not yet — so they’ve decided to change the conversation. Now, everyone’s talking about the service associated with the Pixel instead of the Pixel itself.

Given the current narrative, I think it would be wise for Apple to offer more storage in the free tier. This would certainly decrease the number of unpleasant interactions iPhone owners have with their devices and it would lessen the competitive edge that Google has on this front.

I don’t think we’ll see “unlimited photo storage” from Apple anytime soon, though. My immediate hunch is 25GB for free. But at this point, that might not be enough.

Twitter’s Not a Lost Cause ➝

Dave Winer:

When people say Twitter, the company, is a lost cause they are out of their minds or don’t understand systems. Twitter works. There’s a company behind it that makes it work. The service has a lot of value, not just as servers, but that it’s all together in one place. If that were to break it could never be replaced. Look at the void left after Napster’s demise for a clue. Set us back 20-30 years.

But it’s not just the system, the employees, or the company itself that has value. There’s also a great deal of value in having all of these users in one place. Not to mention the identity aspect of Twitter — every athlete, journalist, and celebrity has a Twitter account. And that’s where fans are pointed to if they want to learn more about them. Nobody gives out their URL anymore, it’s always their Twitter handle.

Apple May Launch Three iPad Pros in Spring 2017 ➝

Joe Rossignol, writing for MacRumors:

Apple will ship three new iPad Pro models around Spring 2017, including 7.9-inch, 9.7-inch, and 10.1-inch models, according to Japanese blog Mac Otakara. […]

Today’s report mostly corroborates KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, who in August said Apple is planning to release three new iPads in 2017. However, his research note claimed the trio of models would include a 12.9-inch iPad Pro 2, 10.5-inch iPad Pro, and a low-cost 9.7-inch iPad.

As much as I’d like to see Apple continuing to support the 7.9-inch form factor, I don’t think we’ll be seeing a new iPad in that size with the Pro moniker. The iPad mini’s popularity has waned since the introduction of iPhones with larger displays and I don’t expect that will end anytime soon.

Ben Brooks on the iPhone Upgrade Program ➝

Ben Brooks is very unhappy with the iPhone Upgrade Program experience. As it turns out, your upgrade options are constrained to what your local Apple Store has available. If there’s a specific color and storage size that you’re interested in, you better hope it’s in-stock locally.

Ben listed a few other problems with the iPhone Upgrade Program. And I have to say, it looks less and less appealing the more I know about it. When I eventually upgrade my iPhone, I think I’m just going to buy it outright. I’m not thrilled about the idea of dropping $800 all at once, but it sounds a lot better than dealing with the Upgrade Program’s restrictions.

Apple’s A10 Fusion Benchmarks ➝

John Gruber:

Looking at Geekbench’s results browser for Android devices, there are a handful of phones in shouting distance of the iPhone 7 for multi-core performance, but Apple’s A10 Fusion scores double on single-core.

According to these benchmarks, the iPhone 7 is faster than the fastest computer I’ve ever owned. In Geekbench, my Mid-2011 Mac mini scores 2841 in single-core and 5223 in multi-core. The iPhone 7 is about 21% faster in single-core tasks and about 8% faster in multi-core. That’s absolutely incredible.