iPhone 6s

I’ve had the iPhone 6s now for about 24 hours. It replaces an iPhone 6 which replaced an iPhone 5S which replaced an iPhone 5 which…well, you get the idea. I’ve had every iPhone going back to the first one. Here are some random observations after my first day with it.

  • To my hand, it’s noticeably thicker and heavier than the 6. Not by much. Only .02 mm thicker, according to Apple, and just 14 grams heftier, but I could tell when trying to. My cases all seem to fit, however.
  • The damned thing is fast. The “s” is thought to stand for “speed” and it’s noticeably quicker in things like app switching, web page loading, and camera functions.
  • The TouchID is now essentially instantaneous in unlocking the phone. So quick, it’s nearly impossible to read the notifications on the screen before it brings up the home screen.
  • The home button is a little clicker than the 6’s. Crisper and sharper.
  • The Taptic Engine creates a much more authoritative vibration than whatever made the 6 vibrate. Like the difference between a ’78 Cylon and a ’04 Cylon. 
  • 3D Touch is pretty nifty, though I admit I’m still training myself to use it. There aren’t a lot of apps that support it yet, but I’m sure there’ll be more soon. Next time I’m using my iPad I’ll probably press down on the screen expecting something to happen in the same way I used to wait for my iPad Air to unlock just by leaving my finger on the home button. 
  • It may be my imagination or that the new phone has arrived during a slightly less greasy moment of my life, but it seems like the 6s screen doesn’t get as smudged as much the 6 screen did. 
  • I can see the difference the 12 megapixel camera makes. I’ve only taken a couple of shots but the detail seems sharper. Still a hell of a great camera.

Needless to say, my ninth iPhone is the best I’ve ever had. Should a normal person upgrade from the 6? I dunno. 3D Touch is cool and the camera is better, but not having 3D Touch means not missing it and the 6’s camera is already pretty damned good. Most of the speed increases are incrementally small and the kind of thing you soon adjust to either way. If you’re using any other iPhone, upgrading to the 6s is a no-brainer.

Cont blocked

iOS 9 introduced the option of blocking web ads and tracking scripts in Safari and a lot of the internet lost its shit. Moral introspection ensued as blocking plug-ins shot to the top of the App Store charts.

I work in digital marketing so I do get that Apple’s move here threatens to severely knock my universe out of balance, but I also acknowledge that the world of online advertising has become actively hostile to those for whom the ads are intended. Bloated pages suck down mobile user’s metered bandwidth and waste their time loading, not to mention the “ads” that automatically redirect site visitors to app stores or other destinations and those that block page content or so crowd it out that it’s hard to find, let alone read. Publishers have allowed advertisers to absolutely ruin the web experience in too many cases in exchange for the few shekels they get in return. The question isn’t why has Apple allowed this to happen, the question is what took so long?

Apple, of course, makes next to nothing from advertising (iAds aside which are of negligible import to anyone). Their business model is based on hardware revenue and those sales are founded on exceptional consumer experience and today’s online advertising model does nothing but erode that. It’s in Apple’s interest to allow its consumers this kind of control. Simple as that.

Of course, publishers need money to publish. The rush towards ad blocking doesn’t spell the end to an ad-based model, it spells the end of the crazy bullshit model that’s evolved organically and unchecked. We as consumers either have to pay sites to read them or we have to let them show us ads (or maybe a little of both). Expecting the web to be delivered free of any charge is totally unrealistic and ultimately unethical. 

The top-selling iOS blocker, Crystal, is now allowing what they call “acceptable ads” from marketers who pay for the privilege safe passage through their filter. They’re teaming with Eyeo, the company behind the browser plug-in AdBlock Plus, and using their database of more than 700 advertisers who meet Eyeo’s criteria. I put it on my phone the day iOS 9 dropped and my recollection is it was free at that time, but it’s currently 99¢. So Crystal is trying to profit from both ends of the pipeline while Eyeo only does so from the advertisers. Since Crystal didn’t say anything about this possibility when it launched, a lot of people are pissed. 

In theory, I think this is the right path for those of us who know that there must be some exchange of value in order to maintain a thriving content model on the web. If the ad industry won’t or can’t abide by acceptable, self-imposed guidelines, then I suppose it’s not unexpected that others like Eyeo would do it for them and that consumers would pick which model they like best. As I said, I don’t think this spells the end of the “free web.” I think it spells the end of the version we have now. Or, at least, the beginning of the end. It’ll be rough sailing for some smaller sites and I expect a lot of them will fade away. But the status quo is not acceptable (and it’s only getting worse). 

A not insignificant shelter in the storm of consumer’s ad-blocking fury on iOS is the niggling detail that content blockers only work in Safari. They don’t apply to web views within apps. That means if you click a link in Facebook or any other app that opens that URL without switching over to Safari (using something called WebKit, the default behavior of most apps on iOS), then the content blocker isn’t engaged. In keeping an eye on my own behavior, I see that the vast majority of my web visits happen outside Safari. Probably north of 80%. Until such time that Apple extends ad blocking functionality to these WebKit sessions, the real impact won’t be felt. But if/when that does happen, shit’s gonna get real.

Don’t fear thickness

Vlad Savov over at The Verge:

I’ll let you in on a carefully guarded secret: there’s no real difference between 7mm and 10mm, let alone between 6.7mm and 6.9mm. If only Samsung and Apple could have let their belts out a little, we could now be looking at devices with more cohesive, bulge-free designs and potentially more generous batteries to boot.

Yes, yes. A thousand times yes.

Whiny Mashable

Mashable posted “9 Worst Things About iOS 8” and I was stupid enough to click on it.

1. Massive to download
If you already have iOS 8 (and upgraded from iOS 7), you likely know how huge the update was to download. While the file itself only occupies about 1.2GB of storage, the download requires you to have up to 5.7GB of free storage on your phone. In response, people deleted pictures, apps and music to make room for the iOS. The good news, however, is that there’s a workaround, if you don’t have iOS 8 yet: Sync your iPhone or iPad to the computer and download iOS 8 directly from there. This won’t suck up any space on your device, and you can manually transfer the new software back to your device.

This isn’t significantly worse than when 7 dropped and is part and parcel with upgrading any computing device. A pain to be sure, but you don’t have to upgrade. The upsides to having a device you never have to plug into a computer to use are far more numerous than this inconvenience.

2. QuickType
Apple has a new built-in keyboard now with predictive text, giving you word suggestions before you type anything (based on what’s previously written). Although some people love the feature, othersdo not — often, the predictive suggestions aren’t at all on point. But for the first time, Apple is allowing iOS users to download better keyboard options from third-party developers, like Swype, SwiftKey and Fleksy, so all hope isn’t lost for a smarter keyboard experience.

So turn it the fuck off. One setting. Bang.

Jesus.

3. Key contacts
On one hand, it’s nice to know you can double-tap the home button and see a carousel of all the people you’ve recently messaged with at the top of the screen. But it highlights contacts you might not want others to know about, too. For example, if you’ve deleted a conversation you recently had with an ex (and you don’t want to broadcast this to anyone looking over your shoulder), their name will still display. To remove this feature, visit Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars > Show in App Switcher and switch it of Off.

So turn it the fuck off. One setting (WHICH YOU INCLUDED). Bang.

Jesus.

4. iCloud Drive
iCloud Drive is perhaps the biggest fail of iOS 8. If you’re not running OS X Yosemite on your Mac — and you’re probably not, unless you’re participating in the public beta program — iCloud Drive will cut off your apps from syncing with older (iOS 7/OS X 10.9 and earlier) devices. Whatever you do, don’t enable iCloud Drive when updating iOS 8 until all your devices are compatible. Here’s more on why to avoid iCloud Drive on iOS 8 for now.

An unfortunate byproduct of device launch dates not syncing with software release dates. Annoying for the moment, but will be so damned cool when Yosemite drops.

5. Unavailable HealthKit
One of the most-buzzed new features is the Health app, the company’s first major step into the health and fitness space. While Apple has been calling on developers to connect their apps and data to its hub, you can’t download HealthKit-enabled apps from the Apple App Store just yet — the launch has been delayed for a few weeks. This means the Health app is currently empty on the home screen, without any explanation on what it is and how to use it. It’s a missed opportunity from Apple not to roll it out to users out of the gate.

You’re bitching about something that didn’t exist before iOS 8 not being ready on the very day iOS 8 was released? Sure, a minor disappointment, but since I hadn’t integrated HealthKit into my first world lifestyle, it’s hardly skin off my nose.

Jesus.

6. Camera Roll Change
Apple mysteriously removed its default Camera Roll album, which has caused a bit of panic (many first assume their photos have been deleted). Although it’s more difficult to locate and organize your iOS pictures, they should be all there. Now, you’ll see albums for Recently Added, Panoramas, Videos, Bursts, and Recently Deleted— along with albums created by third-party apps such as Instagram. Pictures taken more than a month ago are stored in the Collections folder, within the Photos app.

So turn the new layout the fuck off. One setting. Bang.

Jesus.

7. Deleted Photos
When you delete photos on iOS 8, they’re not actually erased yet. The new Recently Deleted folder holds them for up to 30 days before trashing them for good. This could be a good thing for those who accidentally delete photos they want to recover, but in most cases, it’s just an extra step to get a photo off of your phone.

I guarantee you the vast majority of people would look at this as a good thing. Stop whining about shit that’s not broken just because it’s different.

Jesus.

8. App Weirdness
Some apps have had a bumpy ride post-update. Twitter, for example, moved the Drafts folder, and some users reported that their tweet drafts disappeared.

Third-party’s app bugs are Apple’s fault? And you can only come up with one example?

Jesus.

9. Glitchy Family Sharing
Apple’s new Family Sharing program has its upsides: you can share purchases from iTunes, iBooks and the App Store without sharing accounts. But there are limitations. Whenever you download something new, it notifies everyone in the group — and the same goes when others go on a downloading frenzy. It’s convenient but not private.

SO DON’T USE IT.

Jesus!

Get bent

I’m not sure if bendgate is going to be a real thing or not. The media loves to swoop down on these issues when they pop up because if there’s something other than winning the American public loves, it’s seeing someone else screw up. Of course, other metal phones bend, too. Just as other phones had reception issues if you blocked their antennas with your hand. But those phones don’t have Apple logos on them.

I had an iPhone 5S that bent. It was in my pocket while I was hiking and I took a tumble and landed on it. Even though it was in a LifeProof case, it ended up getting bent. The Apple Store guy said it wasn’t an issue covered under warranty or Apple Care since it was still functional. Luckily, the headphone jack eventually got jacked and I was able to exchange it. I imagine the standard line from Apple will be the same for pocket-bent Sixes.

I don’t have my iPhone 6 yet so I’ll withhold final judgement, but I had already formed the suspicion that Apple’s drive to make the thinnest phone possible had gone too far. I based my thinking on the dubious design decision that gave us the camera bump. I’d rather they made the phone that much thicker in exchange for better battery. Nobody — not one person — outside Apple headquarters has said the 5S was too thick but plenty (like, everyone else) have said a longer battery life would be swell. Jony Ive might rather make a phone thin enough to shave with, but I’d bet most users would trade in a  millimeter or two for a 5-10% increase in battery life (a number I just totally made up — no idea how much extra battery they could have put in there if the phone was thicker). Now, we’re presented with the prospect that the phone is excessively bendy due to its extreme thinness. And this is another smack against the larger size. Of course when you make something too big to fit comfortably in a pocket, there’s going to be issues. Either it’ll dig into you or it’ll give in to the pressure.

I’m a huge fan of Apple design and always have been, but sometimes it seems like they make decisions in favor of aesthetics over how real people will use their devices. Off the top of my head, I think of the beautiful yet rediculously scratch-prone iPod backing and the too easily nicked chamfered edge of the iPhone 5 and 5S.

Design is about trade-offs. That’s one of its core tenets. In this case, I wonder if Apple is too willing to trade durability and practicality for an arbitrary aesthetic. The camera bump is arguably a subjective design choice (though I’d argue back that instability when laying on its back on a flat surface impacts its functionality, if just a little). Durability is not subjective.

It is not unreasonable for a person to think that among the elements tested during the design of their nice new phone was whether or not it would stand up to being used in exactly the way every single person in the world with pockets uses them.

iPhone Day

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iPhone Day 2014 has dawned anew. The eighth annual mass-demonstration of orgasmic consumerism that will result in another unprecedented transference of wealth from millions to just a few.

As usual, there is a large dosage of animus:

It may be my imagination, but this “haters gonna hate” thing seems to ratchet up with each successive launch. What I don’t get is why. Does a large portion of the population ridicule another for standing in line for Rolling Stones tickets? Or to get into a great breakfast spot on a Saturday morning? Or for Transformers 16? OK, maybe for the Transformers.

Bloomberg reported:

At Apple’s store on Fifth Avenue in New York, police officers put up barricades as the line stretched more than 10 blocks and the crowd cheered continuously for the 15 minutes before the phones officially went on sale.

I used to be that guy in line, but I’m not anymore. Maybe it’s because I’m older now (though I’d hate to think so), but I’m content ordering my phone like a civilized person and having it delivered to me, even if that means I’m not one of the first on the planet to post to Facebook from its virgin touchscreen.

I’d wait at the Apple store with hundreds or thousands of others. This is more social event than product launch. You do this to be with your tribe. Not unlike going to a collegiate sporting event. You all get to discuss the phone and the company and how long you’ve been an Apple customer (extra cred awarded for having owned a Mac from the years during Steve’s exile). It’s a warm and comforting thing, really.

Maybe that’s what the haters hate on. They have nothing like this. Their tribe (assuming the vast majority of them are non-Apple users) is significantly weaker. There is no binding energy in their brand affiliation. No embrace of kindred spirits. Perhaps they’re jealous.

To be sure, there must be a large number of people in the Apple Store line who were previously not Apple users. I remember what it was like in 1998 to use a Mac. We were few and very far between. So a large percentage of these cheering fans (and fans they are) must be converts. Know what they say about former smokers being the most virulently anti-smoking people there are? I bet it’s the same for Apple fans. Former Galaxy and Dell users cheer and sit on the cold Fall pavement with as much if not more excitement as someone who’s first Apple product was beige with a built-in screen.

In the last few years I waited, I did so at the AT&T store. There were fewer people and the phones were just the same. I lost the tribal element. These were more goal-oriented business-like folk who wanted to get in and get out and get on. I’d hear the Apple crowd chanting (yes, chanting) at the other end of the mall and feel a little sorry. For myself. For leaving their happy embrace. For being efficient rather than ecstatic.

So today, I’ll look at the throngs of hopeful iPhone buyers sitting in New York or Chicago or Sydney or London while waiting for my AT&T shipping notification email. I miss them. I’m happy for them. But it’s nice not to have to get up hours before dawn and sit in the dark. Alas.

Siege this

The New York Times Magazine is out with a piece documenting the development and unveiling of the original iPhone (coinciding, I presume, with the second anniversary of Steve Job’s death). I’d like to say that overall it’s a great piece, but I can’t since I had to stop reading it at the tenth paragraph. I suppose I’ll get back to finishing it after I write this post.

Up until the tenth paragraph (and the three that follow), it’s really awesome stuff. I totally get off on these behind-the-scenes kind of long reads, regardless of the company or product they’re covering. It’s fascinating to see how different companies and different personalities birth products. This account seemed just as compelling right before the author veered off into the land of unfounded popular opinion.

And yet Apple today is under siege.

Oh, god. Really? The most profitable electronics manufacture in the world? Under siege? Every company in the civilized world would like to be as under siege as Apple.

From the moment in late 2007 that Google unveiled Android — and its own plan to dominate the world of mobile phones and other mobile devices — Google hasn’t just tried to compete with the iPhone; it has succeeded in competing with the iPhone.

Just because another company has found a way to compete in the same marketplace doesn’t mean you’re “under siege.” Is Ford under siege by Toyota? Or McDonald’s by Wendy’s? Last I heard, they’re all doing well. But not as well as Apple, the assumed siege victim here. Why must Apple have north of a 70% marketshare to be deemed as succeeding? What other company is held to this standard?

Android has exploded in popularity since it took hold in 2010. Its share of the global smartphone market is approaching 80 percent, while Apple’s has fallen below 20 percent.

Which means nothing, really. Note that Google makes more money from their apps and services on iOS than they do on their own platform. Note that, in fact, the company that’s really found a way to compete with Apple is not Google as much as it’s Samsung. And when I say “compete” I mean “mindlessly copy.” But whatever. It works for them. They and Apple are literally making all the money in the smartphone marketplace.

The better comparison for Apple is the often-made example of BMW. Tiny marketshare; Lots of mindshare and profits. Companies that make premium products are not often (if ever) the ones that make the most of those kinds of products.

A similar trend is under way with iPads: in 2010 the iPad had about 90 percent of the tablet market; now more than 60 percent of the tablets sold run Android.

How many Android tablets do you see in the wild compared to iPads? I know they’re selling a lot of these things, but to whom? Where are they being used? Are they basically zero margin, low-end products? Or, as in the case of Amazon’s Kindles, just low-margin storefronts? Remember, Apple doesn’t work for marketshare. They work for profit share. In that regard, they’re killing it.

What worries Apple fans most of all is not knowing where the company is headed.

This “fan” didn’t know where they were headed under Jobs, either.

When Jobs died in October 2011, the prevailing question wasn’t whether Tim Cook could succeed him, but whether anyone could. When Jobs ran Apple, the company was an innovation machine, churning out revolutionary products every three to five years. He told his biographer, Walter Isaacson, that he had another breakthrough coming — a revolution in TV. But under Cook, nothing has materialized, and the lack of confidence among investors is palpable.

The presumption regarding the TV product is that the content owners can’t figure out terms that would let Apple have access to their shows that Apple wouldn’t be a fool to accept. These are the insightful and innovative head cases like those running CBS and Comcast. Having a platform that works is not the same as having a product absent the content it needs to be relevant. Unlike other companies, Apple doesn’t release half-baked concepts into the marketplace and expect people to buy them.

With regard to investors, I’d suggest they never understood why Apple was successful in the first place, so I wouldn’t read too much into their confidence issues now. Except that I have a substantial (for me) position in AAPL, of course.

Apple product announcements used to routinely send its stock soaring.

That’s just totally false. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Expectations have, since the iMac’s introduction, always been totally unrealistic. When they don’t announce anti-gravity solar-powered bread slicing iPods, the stock slides. Every time.

When Cook presented the latest smartphones in September, the iPhone 5c and the iPhone 5s, Apple’s stock fell 10 percent.

Right. Like I said…

A year ago the company’s stock price was at $702 a share, making Apple the world’s most valuable corporation. Today, it’s down more than 25 percent from that peak.

Keep in mind the stock went up to $702 under Tim Cook’s watch, not Jobs’.

Comparing anyone with Steve Jobs is unfair.

Of course it is, but you’ll do it anyway.

To me, this little foray into the land of crappy insights and apparent inability to fact-check (i.e., use Google) reads like an editor falling into a kind of false equivalency trap. The story was perhaps too positive toward the company or Jobs. It didn’t fit the lazy media narrative regarding Apple. These couple of paragraphs read like a last minute, ham-handed insertion to “toughen up” the piece. Too bad. It makes me question the accuracy of everything that follows.