The Initial Charge Linked List

The Initial Charge Linked List is a frequently updated list of interesting links and commentary. You can subscribe to the Linked List with its dedicated RSS feed or you can follow along on the main feed, which includes both Linked List items and the feature articles from this site.

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Mark Gurman on the Future of iPad

Continuing a string of great Apple rumor reporting, Mark Gurman details iPad dual-app viewing mode, multi-user logins, and the 12-inch iPad.

Apple Readies Transit Maps for iOS 9

Mark Gurman, writing on 9 to 5 Mac:

Apple currently plans to debut bus, subway, and train route navigation as the central upgrade to the Maps app in iOS 9 at WWDC, using a user interface similar to the one intended for last fall’s launch […] Due to personnel issues, data inconsistencies, and coverage for only a small subset of Apple’s major markets, Apple decided to pull transit functionality from iOS 8 very late into development, sources indicate. The feature was apparently present in internal iOS 8 betas well into the summer of 2014, despite the lack of an announcement at last year’s Worldwide Developers Conference. Since that time, however, Apple has refined the data, added new cities, and developed a new push notifications system that will notify users as new cities gain support.

I don’t have any use for transit directions. But for many, this is a necessary feature that will be a welcome addition to Apple Maps.

Automatic, the Smart Driving Monitor, Launches App Gallery

Antuan Goodwin, reporting for CNET:

Two years ago, the Automatic smart driving monitor launched as a sort of “fitbit for cars,” connecting on-board diagnostic (OBD) technology to the Web to present driving data in a way that almost anyone can understand. Today, Automatic launches its Automatic App Gallery, a sort of app store for cars with over 20 apps that work with Automatic’s hardware, alongside a new developer platform and second-generation hardware.

There’s trip mileage apps designed to integrate with expense tracking software, an app that can help split the cost of carpooling, and many more available at launch.

I thought about buying an Automatic a few months back when I found out how much most mechanics charge to read data from the OBD port. But with the release of second-generation hardware, I’m happy I hadn’t pulled the trigger yet. This latest dongle supports the company’s new streaming SDK which is able to send raw, realtime performance data to select third-party apps.

I’m excited to see what developers are able to come up with on this platform. I think most drivers could benefit from having more information about their automobile’s performance and better explanations when something goes wrong — the “check engine” light isn’t very descriptive.

The second-generation Automatic Car Adapter is available from Amazon for $99.95.

Significant Apple Watch Updates and TVKit

Mark Gruman reports on upcoming Apple Watch features such as Find my Watch, Smart Leashing, and third-party complications. He’s also heard from sources that Apple is preparing to release an SDK for the Apple TV dubbed “TVKit” alongside new hardware this June. I can’t wait for WWDC this year, it feels like it’s going to be chock full of fun announcements.

Automattic Buys WooCommerce for Over $30 Million

This is the kind of acquisition I’d expect from a smart company like Automattic.

Apple Updates 15-inch MacBook Pro and 5K iMac

The 15-inch MacBook Pro now sports the Force Touch trackpad, improved internals, and better battery life. The 5K iMac has a new introductory price of $1,999, but this lower-end configuration comes with a traditional hard drive rather than an SSD. If you’re in the market for a desktop Mac I’d suggest spending the extra $200 to get the 1TB Fusion Drive or the 256GB SSD.

Tim Cook’s George Washington University Commencement Speech

An inspiring speech filled with hope for social justice and idealism for the future. It’s well worth watching.

First Teaser Released for ‘Steve Jobs’

I don’t know if this is going to be good but the trailer did its job, I want to see this now.

Zappos’ Management Experiment

Richard Feloni takes an inside look at Zappos’ new corporate structure, holacracy, which functionally removes managers and has employees working as peers on tasks rather than having predetermined responsibilities and job titles. 14% of Zappos’ employees accepted a severance package and left the company rather than participate in the new structure. The experiment seems to have been a success with the pilot group of around a hundred employees, but the jury’s still out as to how well it will fare for the entire company.

I’m interested to see how this works for Zappos. In my day job, a lot of the challenges I face involve convincing the managers above me to let my peers and I do things a certain way. And while holacracy would be unlikely to succeed in my workplace, I can certainly see the appeal of it.

Pocket Scale for iPhone

A neat little weight tracking app by Uptown Apps that I came across a week or two ago. Just launch the app and input your weight whenever you step on the scale. The history view shows you a list of all of your data points and tells you how much weight you’ve lost or gained while using the app.

You can tell the app to send you a daily notification so you never miss a weigh-in and you can even choose what time of day it reminds you. But, the best feature of all is that it syncs with Apple’s Health app so you can keep all of your data in one place.

Facebook Introducing Instant Articles

Michael Reckhow, Facebook product manager:

As more people get their news on mobile devices, we want to make the experience faster and richer on Facebook. People share a lot of articles on Facebook, particularly on our mobile app. To date, however, these stories take an average of eight seconds to load, by far the slowest single content type on Facebook. Instant Articles makes the reading experience as much as ten times faster than standard mobile web articles.

They’re launching with nine publishing partners and this specially formatted content is currently only viewable on Facebook for iPhone. Content providers can sell ads in their articles and keep all of the revenue or they can use Facebook’s advertising platform.

Lock Screen Complications for iOS

Dan Moren, writing on Six Colors:

And now there’s precedent for it. As many of the developers I talked to for my iOS 9 wishlist/rumor roundup this week pointed out, the Apple Watch offers very customizable lock screens—they just happen to also be watch faces.

So maybe it’s finally time for that same customizability to make its way to iOS devices.

A neat idea for a feature that seems all the more likely now that we have the Apple Watch. I’m not sure I’d actually use them, it all depends on how they’re implemented and what third-party developers come up with. But, I know there are a lot of users interested in this kind of functionality.

The End of Ten

Jason Snell proposes Apple remove the “ten” from OS X and simply call it “Mac OS.” I agree, it’s time to move on. It’ll be fifteen years of OS X next year and I think Apple should take the leap and rename their desktop operating system to something a little more elegant. It would also be nice if Apple avoided the confusing OS X, iOS 10 situation that’s likely to take place next year if they don’t make the change soon.

Google Adding Buy Buttons to Mobile Search Results

Alistair Barr and Rolfe Winkler, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:

Google Inc. will launch buy buttons on its search-result pages in coming weeks, a controversial step by the company toward becoming an online marketplace rivaling those run by Inc. and eBay Inc. […]

The buttons will accompany sponsored—or paid—search results, often displayed under a “Shop on Google” heading at the top of the page. Buttons won’t appear with the nonsponsored results that are driven by Google’s basic search algorithm.

This feels like the next step for online advertising, but I don’t think I’d ever use it. I already avoid clicking on ads in search results and I can’t imagine deciding to purchase something without visiting the website selling it first.

On Apple Watch Theft Hysteria

John Gruber on the recent grumblings of the Apple Watch being a magnet for thieves because it doesn’t require a passcode to be reset:

This is no less secure than every single other wristwatch ever made. Certainly, in the future, there could be an option to require the passcode no matter what, but I’m not persuaded that should be the default.

I agree with John. People forget their passcodes, especially with a device that seldomly asks for it. Apple could require you to reset the Watch from your iPhone, but what if it’s lost, stolen, or broken? There’s no easy solution. Maybe Apple will come up with one in the future but I don’t think it’s even necessary.

Everyone seems to have this false sense that any device that could include anti-theft features should. I think that’s dead wrong. Expecting Apple to develop that kind of mechanism in a 1.0 product is foolish — I can imagine they’d rather spend that time on features that are used day to day rather than features that most owners will never use. But more than that, what if theives find some way to circumvent it? Couldn’t that leave Apple open to lawsuits from users who had their Watch stolen?

I also enjoyed David Mark’s take on the issue:

There are not enough Apple Watches in the wild yet to be a large enough market. The desirability might be there for early adopters, but it’s still too early in the adoption cycle for desirability to be high enough to trigger a large enough black market to entice this sort of thievery.

In all of the reporting I read on this issue I couldn’t find one example of real-world Apple Watch theft taking place. It seems some of these writers have put the cart before the horse in an effort to generate page views.

The Discreet Watch

Ben downplays the aesthetics of the Apple Watch — which I disagree with — but he makes a great point about not wanting to use his iPhone at a swanky event or expensive restaurant.

Smartphones can attract unwanted attention in fancy settings and using it could be considered downright rude by many in attendance. But, often times it’s necessary to do things like keep in touch with the babysitter or check your text messages to ensure there hadn’t been a family emergency. The Apple Watch is perfect for the times when you want to stay connected without distracting the people around you.

Windows Phone is Now Officially Windows Mobile Again

I have no idea why they would want to return to the Windows Mobile branding. Wasn’t it universally panned as the worst mobile operating system in the Blackberry and Palm OS days?

FiftyThree Announces ‘Think’ Update to Paper App

Three brand new tools for Paper — Diagram, Fill, and Cut — which allow you to use Paper as a mobile whiteboarding app. You can now easily draw circles, squares, arrows, fill in objects, and more.

I use Paper a lot for sketching ideas, building hand-written checklists, and drawing diagrams to organize my thoughts. I’ve been trying out the new tools for a few days and absolutely love them. They make it even faster to get the thoughts in my head onto my iPad where it they can be saved or shared. I especially enjoy the Diagram tool which offers far more functionality than any of the other tools in Paper.

Microsoft Will Automatically Install Candy Crush Saga on Windows 10

Apple may have screwed up with that U2 album, but that’s nothing compared to bundling this free-to-play garbage in Windows 10.

Apple Intervening in RadioShack Sale

Joseph Keller, writing for iMore:

Apple is intervening in the sale of RadioShack, filing a motion to prevent the sale of some customer data to bidders for RadioShack’s assets. While the company doesn’t object to the sale in general, they are hopping to block the sale of the personal data of customers who purchased Apple products from RadioShack stores. Apparently selling that data would violate Apple’s reseller agreement with RadioShack, according to Law360.

I’m very happy to hear that Apple is stepping up and trying to protect customer data.

Rdio Launches Inexpensive ‘Rdio Select’ Streaming Music Service

The service costs $3.99 per month and includes ad-free personalized radio alongside access to 25 songs a day that users can stream or download to their device (up to a maximum of 25 at a time).

All this talk of streaming music makes me wish there was an Audible-style music service that charged me $9.99 a month and gave me a credit toward one album that I would own. These credits could roll-over indefinitely (or practically indefinitely) so that even if I went several months without “purchasing” an album the money I spent on the service wouldn’t go to waste. There could also be a cloud component allowing me to stream my music to save on device storage or redownload tracks if they were ever lost due to a hardware failures. That is the kind of service I’d want to sign up for.

Wal-Mart Preps Rival to Amazon Prime

I love Amazon Prime, partly because it keeps me from having to shop at Wal-Mart. I can’t imagine I would ever switch to their service.

‘Apple Music’ Service to Have Ping-Like Social Features

Mark Gurman, writing for 9 to 5 Mac:

Taking a page out of the discontinued iTunes Ping feature from earlier this decade, the service will allow artists to have their own pages within the streaming music service that they can use to post track samples, photos, videos, and concert updates.

All kidding aside, this is the kind of functionality that Apple needs to help their streaming service get over with the masses. It’s not enough to be just another streaming music service, everyone’s already doing that. If Apple Music is going to be successful they need to have a solution that goes above and beyond and allows artists and fans to communicate with each other on a deeper level. And as long as Apple can execute it properly, I think it’ll be a hit.

Who Isn’t the Apple Watch for?

Matt Hauger discusses who shouldn’t buy the Watch and what Apple could do to change that.

Ming-Chi Kuo on the Next iPhone

Force Touch, a rose gold option, 12MP camera, and 2GB of RAM being the highlights of Kuo’s predictions. All of these seem like logical progressions with the rose gold option being the only thing that took me by surprise. I’m excited about the upgrade to 2GB of RAM, though. It’s been really impressive in the iPad Air 2 and I can’t wait to have that much memory in a computer that lives in my pocket.

Verizon Agrees to Buy AOL for $4.4 Billion

It’s all about AOL’s automated advertising technology. But on the technology journalism front, I wonder what this means for AOL’s content sites like TechCrunch and Engadget.

Pedometer++ Reaches One Million Downloads

David Smith:

The response to it blew me away. I had put it on the store more as a whimsical tool for playing with the new hardware but it took off from day one. With 12k downloads in its first day of availability, and 30k its first week. Seeing this opportunity I worked over the next few days to get a better, more capable application ready.

I started using Pedometer++ the day it was released. I’ve tried other activity tracking apps, but I’ve always ended up coming back to Pedometer++. I couldn’t be happier about the success David’s had with the application and I hope he continues to see a steady number of downloads going forward.

Apple is Working on Something Big

Neil Cybart on Apple’s ever increasing research and development costs:

Taking a look at the increased amount of money Apple has been pouring into R&D beginning last summer, it is looking increasingly likely management gave the green light for Apple’s next big project. I suspect Apple has begun work on battery, telematics, and autonomous driving initiatives related to personal transport.

In short, Apple started spending a lot more money on R&D last summer. And because of the guidelines regarding what is allowed to be classified as R&D, Apple must be developing new products that require a significant investment to create.

CHIP, The World’s First Nine Dollar Computer

A really neat Kickstarter that’s nearing $850,000 pledged with 25 days to go. This is the kind of runaway success stories that crowd funding can enable and I really hope the folks behind it can turn CHIP into something that changes the world.

‘Beats Revamp Still Debuting at WWDC, Global Release Late-June’

Mark Gurman, writing for 9 to 5 Mac:

According to a report today from Billboard, Apple does not have the deals in place to launch its long-awaited Beats Music revamp as its new streaming music service. The report quotes a source as saying “June won’t be the release date. The deals aren’t done,” but our sources say that an announcement at the June 8th WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference) keynote is still planned. A few weeks following the announcement, in late June, Apple will fully release the service as part of two new software products: iOS 8.4 and iTunes 12.2, according to sources briefed on the plans.

We’ll know for sure in four weeks when Tim Cook takes stage. And I have to say, I’m actually excited to see what this new streaming service has to offer.

Jason Snell on the Modular Watch Face

The modular watch face was my favorite of the group until I learned that you can’t place the time in the large middle row. Without ever using the Watch, my best guess would be that I’ll end up using one of the analog faces when I eventually get mine — probably Utility or Chronograph.

Enjoy: A Genius in Your Living Room

Joe Caiati on Ron Johnson’s new retail startup, Enjoy:

When I worked at Apple’s Genius Bar in one of their Flagship Manhattan stores, me and co-workers would be asked often by customers if they could take us home with them. Some were jokingly asking, most of them weren’t.

There is no shortage of entitled, technologically inept or busy people in Manhattan who would pay for a service like Enjoy, let alone use it for free. But many aren’t buying new expensive gadgets all the time and I’m wondering if Johnson and team are banking on large city’s to make up for the infrequencies.

I think the economics of Enjoy are sound. Retail space in San Francisco and New York City is expensive and being able to remove that cost entirely in exchange for salaried employees is a worthwhile tradeoff.

And, I don’t think they’ll have too much trouble keeping their emoloyees’ schedule booked. The nice thing about not having retail space is that you can have as many or as little employees as sales require — expanding and contracting your team depending on how much you sell not the square footage of your retail space.

Joe also has some inside information on the experts Enjoy has been hiring for launch:

Sources have told me that prior to Enjoy’s launch, Johnson had been aggressively poaching Apple retail upper-management and Genii who he once used to be Senior Vice President of. One source described a mass exodus from the Grand Central Flagship store with a rumored number of over fifteen employees leaving.

It’s people he’s already familiar with and has a good understanding of how they’re trained and what they know. I think he’d be foolish not to poach these employees. Especially considering that they’re among the best retail employees in the world.

Enjoy seems like it’s set up to be a success, my only concern would be whether or not they’ll capture enough mindshare to make an impact — brick and mortar retail presence goes a long way towards promoting your existence and the company might need to purchase a lot of advertising to overcome that shortcoming.

‘discoveryd Clusterfuck’

Craig Hockenberry shines a light on one of Yosemite’s biggest problems, discoveryd. Perhaps this is the reason my Apple TVs constantly and randomly receive numbers at the end of their name in my AirPlay menus.

Redesigning Overcast’s Apple Watch App

Marco Arment details his redesign of Overcast for Apple Watch. He scrapped the three-level hierarchy in the original design and chose the Now Playing screen as the single, main, root screen with modal views that slide up when needed. The changes look great and I can’t wait to start using it when I eventually get a Watch of my own.

(And, chalk Marco up as another developer that wants third-party access to complications.)

iOS 9 Wishes

Federico Viticci published his iOS 9 wishlist. My favorite of the batch is the ability to personalize Control Center with custom shortcuts and toggles. I would love to change the shortcuts in Control Center on my iPhone to applications I actually use, like Calcbot, Fantastical, or Pocket Scale.

Sega to Remove Low Quality Games From App Store

Mallory Day, writing on the Sega Blog:

At SEGA we are committed to making fun, high-quality mobile games and it is with our fans’ best playing experience in mind that we announce the removal of a number of games from our back catalogue. It is important for us to ensure that all of our fans, regardless of platform or operating system, have a great playing experience and after evaluating our complete list of titles, we have determined that a number of them no longer meet our standards.

They will be removing these titles from app stores over the next few weeks, but there’s no word on what specific games will be affected by this.

I think its wise for them to get rid of some of their older, lower quality titles from app stores. For many of these games, they aren’t likely to recoup the costs necessary to update them for the latest version of iOS. But, they also don’t want any negative backlash from customers paying $2.99 for a game that doesn’t fill the entire screen on their brand new iPhone.

I can imagine some of these games returning in the future, though. Maybe they’ll release some sort of remastered collection that includes titles from the early days of the App Store with enhanced graphics and new levels.

(Via 9 to 5 Mac.)

First look at App Analytics

Jordan Kahn takes a look at Apple’s new App Analytics beta which offers developers details on their users and application usage.

Patrick Rhone is Ending Minimal Mac

Minimal Mac is a site I’ve drawn a great deal of inspiration from over the years and is the reason I ultimately hired Aaron Mahnke to design the site’s logo.

If you’ve enjoyed the site, as I have, I suggest purchasing Minimal Mac: What We Believe In, a compilation of the best posts and quotes from the site’s six year lifespan. It’s available as an eBook on Gumroad or in a print edition from Patrick has also opened up sales on the Minimal Mac t-shirt which will be available to order until May 20.

How a Company Treats Its Customers

Brian X. Chen, regarding the current state of product reviews:

The product evaluations neglect to mention the quality of a company’s customer service, which becomes the most important factor of all when problems or questions related to the product come up.

I learned this lesson from a bizarre experience with a Samsung oven that I bought last year. This was no impulse purchase — I researched brands and appliances for days. But even that didn’t help.

It took seven visits for a technician to determine that Chen’s Samsung oven was defective. And after all that, Samsung’s support center dragged the process out for five months before issuing a partial refund and reimbursement for the damages to his kitchen.

He goes on to suggest that product reviews should take into consideration the company’s support services, and I tend to agree. My fiancée and I purchased a Samsung television late last year upon the recommendation of The Wirecutter, but if I had read stories like this about their customer service I probably would have considered other options.

I might never need to contact Samsung’s customer service for my television and, even if I do, I might not have a bad experience like Chen has. But, companies that treat their customers poorly don’t deserve my business. In the future, I’m far more likely to read what I can about a company’s customer service before making a purchase.

Applebot, Apple’s Web Crawler

This begs the question, will Apple release a web search product? Or, is Applebot just a Spotlight and Siri play? Only time will tell, but I think controlling the customers experience from the hardware all the way to web search is worth something. It’s just a matter of whether or not Apple wants to be in that business.

Redacted for Mac Makes Top Paid Apps List

Sam Soffes opens the books on Redacted for mac’s first day of sales. As it turns out, 59 sales in the Mac App Store is all you need to get the #8 spot on the top paid apps list in the US. That’s a pretty bad sign for the overall health of the Mac App Store.

The Secret Apple Watch Port Should Probably Stay Hidden

Jeremy Horowitz, regarding third-party band makers use of the Apple Watch diagnostic port:

Stop before you spend $250 to order an accessory that might never arrive or work properly. […]

While conspiracy theorists will come up with all sorts of explanations for a hidden port, the two key reasons for the Apple Watch to have it are for diagnostics and performing guaranteed reliable firmware updates.

I would avoid buying any accessories that use the Apple Watch’s diagnostic port. That is, unless you fully understand that it might not work at all or will eventually stop working in the future.

Everything Changes with iPad

It’s a good ad and a great campaign, but I wish they would have produced commercials for each of the tasks instead of just the one compilation spot. I think it would be beneficial to the iPad as a brand if they spent time focusing on individual things it can do rather than trying to pitch it as a whole in 90 seconds.

Using the Apple Watch Hands-Free

A great tip from Jeff Benjamin at iDownLoadBlog, explaining how to perform various actions on the Apple Watch using the “hey, Siri” command.

Apple’s ‘iPad Pro’ May Feature Bluetooth Stylus, Force Touch, NFC

Neil Hughes, writing for AppleInsider:

Apple is indeed working on a larger iPad which will feature a number of changes, including an all-new Bluetooth stylus accessory with pressure sensitivity, support for Force Touch input, and a USB-C connector, AppleInsider has learned.

The Bluetooth stylus seems a bit odd, but I look at this as simply more smoke indicating the existence of a fire.

Apple TV Gets CBS Sports and USA Now

The USA Now channel requires a cable subscription for most of its content, but it doesn’t look like the CBS Sports channel does.

Apple Launches Official ‘Made for Apple Watch’ Bands Program

“Bands must not integrate magnetic chargers.” And, there’s no mention of the Apple Watch’s hidden diagnostic port.

Apple TV Remote to Get Redesign

Brian X. Chen, writing for The New York Times:

When Apple introduces its new TV box this summer, the remote control will gain a touch pad and also be slightly thicker than the current version, according to an employee briefed on the product, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the device was confidential.

My only hope is that Apple doesn’t remove IR from the set top box. I know there’s a lot of people that absolutely hate IR and would prefer Bluetooth or some other wireless technology, but I am obsessed with my Logitech Harmony remotes. And, I don’t want to give up the ability to control my entire home theater setup with a single remote.

Forget Third-Party Faces, Give Me Custom Complications

Anthony Harrison, writing on the Eastwood Blog:

As a developer, what excites me the most is the opportunity to create ‘complications’ for these Apple designed watch faces.

He built some mockup complications for his favorite apps and they look great. And as someone who listens to a lot of podcasts, I especially like the idea of seeing the time remaining on the current episode in Overcast right on my wrist.