September 14, 2018

Link: Goodbye, iPhone SE ☍

Thomas Brand:

As someone who doesn’t value his cell phone as much as the next Apple nerd, the iPhone SE has been an important product for me because of its price. The iPhone SE kept me invested in the iOS ecosystem, and enabled me to purchase a Apple Watch without approaching the ~$700 iPhone ASP I normally attribute to laptop computers. Now that an updated iPhone SE is no longer an option, I am evaluating alternative cell phone platforms. I am sure I am not alone.

I was a bit disappointed to see the iPhone SE get discontinued on Wednesday. I bought one on launch day as an upgrade from the iPhone 6 and it was a fantastic device—never a being the top-of-the-line, Apple didn’t seem to skimp in areas that mattered. With discounts and sale prices, the SE was going for $49 on some carriers without any sort of commitment just a few weeks ago, making it a tremendous value that still runs things quite nicely.

When I upgraded to an iPhone 8 Plus last year, I did it out of curiousity, having never had a Plus phone and also wanted to experiment with having only an iPhone. The interface really tends to breathe more on the larger displays and developers seem to be working on the 4.7″ models first, then scaling up or down. Because of that, nudging potential SE buyers to a 7 makes some sense, and I suspect we’ll eventually see discounts on prepaid or refurbished 7 units from time to time. I’m not denying that the extra size is a bit of an adjustment, but the market has shifted to larger phones—there aren’t many Android models, let alone good ones, that are SE-sized.

My ideal Apple lineup would’ve included an updated SE, maybe at the $400 price point (where the SE started), with a larger, notched screen. Keep it in a similarly-sized enclosure as the outgoing model. Like the SE, this model can stick around in that spot for a couple of years while the former high-end iPhones drop around it and then get discontinued. It will be positioned perfectly to join an all-notched iPhone lineup, too.

September 11, 2018

Link: Does Apple Still Care About Beats? ☍

Micah Singleton for The Verge:

Apple has its eyes set on the high-end audio market to compete against the likes of Audio-Technica, Bose, and a rapidly improving headphone ecosystem. But neglecting the team that has been able to sell slightly above-average headphones at a breakneck pace for nearly a decade doesn’t seem like a smart business move for either party. If you are the official headphone company for United States Basketball, it seems wise to continue releasing new headphones. And if you are Apple — and your history with headphones and speakers has precisely one win, despite many attempts — you should lean on the company you own that hasn’t missed yet.

The other day I was watching both the WNBA Western Conference Finals Semifinals and a US Women’s National Team soccer game with a friend and remarked that when ESPN usually shows players arriving during pregame coverage, many were wearing AirPods, a spot typically reserved for some iteration of Beats Solos. This was also the case with the NBA playoffs last spring, and it sort of makes sense. While many Beats products have the flashy, cool aspect, most of the typical larger models are bulky and AirPods are convenient and sound good enough.

I don’t think Apple is going to abandon Beats, especially since this NBA/WNBA/G-League/USA Basketball deal just got inked (replacing Samsung’s JBL brand). I think there needs to be some additional offerings, maybe even a Beats-ified set of AirPods. A smaller, HomePod-style device with Beats branding would also be a nice addition to the lineup. I think Beats being the exciting brand with opinionated audio characteristics, while Apple sticks with their minimalist, generally realistic sound could be a nice balance.

Link: 512 Pixels Turns Ten ☍

Stephen Hackett:

Regardless of how a single post has aged, overall, I’m proud of what the nearly 8,000 posts in my WordPress database represent: thoughtful consideration (and some jokes) about the things that interest me. Those interests have changed over time, but they are why I keep this site going. I want to share my ideas and things I find with readers who will find them just as cool or thought-provoking as I do.[…]

In 2010 or so, I made a real push at turning 512 Pixels into an Apple news site. I published a bunch of stuff, hoping to grow the site into something I could do full-time. That didn’t work, and I got pretty cranky about having a blog, but I stuck with after rediscovering the foundation on which it is built.

I discovered 512 Pixels shortly after its name change and it’s been fun to watch it grow and develop. There are plenty of large, commercial tech news sites that cover Apple, especially now that Apple is such a large player in the technology world. Smaller, personal sites like Hackett’s provide so much more value because they focus on the human aspect of technology—use cases, critical thinking, historical context, humor, and the joy that metal, silicon, plastic, and glass bring us. That content tends to age much better.

Here’s to ten years and many more!

September 1, 2018

“…I love beautiful photography and there is a lot of that on IG [Instagram]. Where else can I gawk at the work of some of my favorite photographers. IG is owned by Facebook, and it does all the shifty things it’s parent does — tracking, manipulating, popularity driven algorithms, and lack of empathy. But good lord, there is some beautiful art there too.”

Link: The Bullshit Web ☍

Nick Heer (via Mike Mulvey):

The average internet connection in the United States is about six times as fast as it was just ten years ago, but instead of making it faster to browse the same types of websites, we’re simply occupying that extra bandwidth with more stuff. Some of this stuff is amazing: in 2006, Apple added movies to the iTunes Store that were 640 × 480 pixels, but you can now stream movies in HD resolution and (pretend) 4K. These much higher speeds also allow us to see more detailed photos, and that’s very nice.

But a lot of the stuff we’re seeing is a pile-up of garbage on seemingly every major website that does nothing to make visitors happier — if anything, much of this stuff is deeply irritating and morally indefensible.

In the early days of the Web, the people making sites were often focused around function, partially due to tools available in the day. In many organizations today, web design (not the actual skeleton of development) falls under a marketing area and form, no matter how inefficient, seems to be more important. The pressure to cram ads and trackers and every other little bit of nonsense takes content that really should be effortless with today’s technology and requires fast devices and fast connections.

I don’t really have a solution to this, but I do recommend taking a moment to reflect on the capabilities we have now that are being squandered.