May 10, 2022

Snippet: Apple Discontinues iPod touch, Ending iPod Line ☍

Apple:

Since its introduction over 20 years ago, iPod has captivated users all over the world who love the ability to take their music with them on the go. Today, the experience of taking one’s music library out into the world has been integrated across Apple’s product line — from iPhone and Apple Watch to iPad and Mac — along with access to more than 90 million songs and over 30,000 playlists available via Apple Music.

“Music has always been part of our core at Apple, and bringing it to hundreds of millions of users in the way iPod did impacted more than just the music industry — it also redefined how music is discovered, listened to, and shared,” said Greg Joswiak, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “Today, the spirit of iPod lives on. We’ve integrated an incredible music experience across all of our products, from the iPhone to the Apple Watch to HomePod mini, and across Mac, iPad, and Apple TV. And Apple Music delivers industry-leading sound quality with support for spatial audio — there’s no better way to enjoy, discover, and experience music.”

Apple rarely issues a press release for a discontinuation of a product, but the iPod was so important to the company. It was released just after things started to turn around in the early 2000s and continued through the iPhone era—it helped put Apple where it is today. While the iPod hasn’t felt like a relevant product for the better part of a decade, I really like that they took the time to acknowledge its importance.

We all get to wax poetic about a device for most of its life did one thing and one thing well—music. Work didn’t follow you home on your iPod and the only doomscrolling that happened was when you were trying to find a specific song. I owned a couple of different iPods over the years, and an iPod touch was my first iOS device (long before iOS was called that). It’ll be sad to close this chapter, but I don’t think it’s a surprise.

April 22, 2022

Snippet: Netflix Loses Subscribers for the First Time in Over a Decade ☍

Chris Welch for The Verge:

Netflix’s struggle to boost its subscriber count took a dire turn in the first quarter of 2022. The company reported a loss of 200,000 subscribers globally compared to Q4, and it’s forecasting even bigger losses to come. Netflix estimates it could lose up to 2 million subscribers in the second quarter.

“Our revenue growth has slowed considerably,” Netflix acknowledged in its letter to shareholders. “Covid clouded the picture by significantly increasing our growth in 2020, leading us to believe that most of our slowing growth in 2021 was due to the Covid pull forward.” Netflix ended the quarter with roughly 222 million subscribers, so it’s still the largest streamer — but it’s facing a slew of challenges.

I think the problems at Netflix are twofold: content and a disrespectful tone towards customers. There’s a lot of great streaming services out there competing for your time. HBO Max has become a fierce competitor for Netflix, growing in subscribers and having a lot of high-quality content. Apple TV+ has taken the quality-over-quantity approach, focusing on a few core series that have been popular and then expanding outward, but still keeping things manageable. Throw in other, cheaper services that may bring you in for a series or two like Paramount+, Hulu, Disney+, or Peacock, and there’s a lot of choices other than Netflix.

Netflix has canceled a lot of series that have shown promise and had critical acclaim to the point that I’ve generally gone into a series with the attitude of “don’t get too attached”—the days of House of Cards and Orange is the New Black feel really long ago and instead we’ve had little blips of niche excitement like Squid Game or Bridgerton. Even Stranger Things taking a long break has left a void.

The streaming giant has recently indicated it will tighten the screws on customers who share passwords and login info as it seeks to maximize revenue from the users it already has. And it’s not a small problem: Netflix now estimates that as many as 100 million households are using the service via shared passwords. “It’s harder to grow membership in many markets,” as a result of the situation, Netflix said.

I suspect this will backfire. Netflix already limits the number of concurrent streams, so even if you shared your password with all your friends and extended family, a very finite amount of people can actually use it at once. There’s also the chance that you wouldn’t be able to stream on your own account because others are tying up the allowed streams. That should be the driving force for the freeloaders to get their own account.

Netflix should focus on increasing quality content that people are addicted to so that they will sign up on their own because they can’t stop watching and get sick of the “you’ve maxed out the number of screens” limit. The current casual sharing of passwords happens, but I doubt even half of those would result in new subscribers. Many are probably tuning in to Netflix for a series or two and then leaving it idle while they watch other things. Adding to that, they’ve increased prices to the point that it’s the most expensive of the big streaming services. If that starts leading to more people wondering if they need Netflix (or drop it for a portion of the year), that’s what really should worry their leadership.

April 21, 2022

Snippet: Robert Arthur Morgan of BareFeats Passes Away at 77 ☍

BareFeats:

The prolific BareFeats APPLE Computer & Product Reviewer Robert Arthur ‘Rob ART’ Morgan passed away on March 12, 2022, 77 years young, at home in Portland, OR.

For the last three decades, Rob ART has been the Mad Mac Scientist, creator of the BareFeats website, where he combined his love of speed and Apple computers to report “Bare Facts on Mac Speed Feats.”

Robert Arthur Morgan pursued the TRUTH in all things APPLE/MAC with honesty, good manners, and unfailing fairness in his evaluations of products, whether great or small. His way of doing business and writing his BareFeats evaluations provided precious, rare, and valued information for manufacturers, business clients, and faithful readers. He tested Apple Products along with hard drives, graphic cards, and a plethora of accessories to make APPLE Computers run FASTER and meet the designing needs of Apple/MAC users worldwide with greater power, control, and efficiency.

I have fond memories of reading BareFeats over the years and the enthusiasm for new technologies always came through in the content. The fact that Morgan was doing this well into his late 70s shows that you’re never too old to keep learning about new technology and sharing your passion.

Snippet: HomePods Increasing in Value ☍

Sean Hollister for The Verge:

I thought it was really strange when Apple kept selling the original $299 HomePod months after it got discontinued. But now, it’s starting to make sense — not only are some people still willing to pay a premium for the somewhat smart speaker, they’re willing to pay more than Apple charged for it.

We took a look at eBay sales numbers after spotting 9to5Mac editor-in-chief Chance Miller’s tweet, and we soon discovered it wasn’t just a joke: on average, an Apple HomePod fetched $375 this past week. That’s 25 percent more than Apple charged.

A friend of mine had one and it was a fantastic device—if you tempered your expectations of what Siri could do, it worked well enough and sounded great. There’s certainly a following of folks who love theirs and would probably purchase more if Apple didn’t unceremoniously kill it without a replacement. I have a HomePod mini and really enjoy it, but it would be nice for Apple to offer a bigger version as a step up.

April 8, 2022

Snippet: The Future of Deliveries ☍

Mike Piontek (via Matt Birchler):

Many things have changed over the years, and unfortunately we’re no longer able to maintain the same service that so many of you have come to rely on. Deliveries relies on many different shipping companies, and without their help it’s not possible for the app to continue working the way you expect.

It’s likely that over time, more services in Deliveries will no longer show tracking information directly in the app. You won’t see the delivery date, the map route, or any of the details, and you won’t get notifications about changes to the status. You will need to use the “View Online” button to see your tracking information on the shipping company’s web site.

It seems that FedEx, Amazon, and possibly others have started killing off the ability to track using an API. Considering that basic tracking information is available without logging in (at least for companies like FedEx and UPS), I doubt it’s a security reason. Instead, I suspect they’d much rather you use their app to track, possibly tracking you.

Companies like FedEx aren’t exactly one where you’ll always be brand loyal because of the “app experience” anyway, as I often don’t get a say in how things are shipped to me. Nonetheless, I’ll probably stick to Deliveries and the web instead of every shipping company’s app.