September 11, 2019

Snippet: The Last Apple Keynote (Hopefully) ☍

Charlie Warzel for The New York Times:

But what started as a Steve Jobs TED Talk has become a parody — a decadent pageant of Palo Alto executives, clothed in their finest Dad Casual, reading ad copy as lead-ins for vaguely sexual jump-cut videos of brushed aluminum under nightclub lighting. The events are exhausting love letters to consumerism complete with rounds of applause from the laptop-lit faces of the tech blogging audience when executives mention that you (yes you!) can hold the future in your hands for just $24.95 per month or $599 with trade-in.

The entire event is at odds with our current moment — one in which inequality, economic precarity and populist frustration have infiltrated our politics and reshaped our relationships with once-adored tech companies. But it’s not just the tech backlash. When the world feels increasingly volatile and fragile, it feels a little obscene to gather to worship a $1,000 phone. Serving journalists pastries topped with gold leaf doesn’t do much to help either.

I respectfully disagree with many of Warzel’s opinions (yes, the game demos do need to go), but in the last few years, the Apple Keynote Cynic™ has become another ongoing trope around the tech world. Why hasn’t Apple had another hit that will shake up the entire industry and how we do computer things?! Most people know that the iPhone is a boring, evolutionary product at this point. How is it any different than a redesigned Toyota Camry being shown off at a press event or auto show? We know the formula and that’s a bit boring, but something new is still exciting and enjoyable. Personally, I’m going to probably hang on to my current iPhone for a bit longer, so I really got to watch as a spectator.

The ongoing narrative that the iPhone is a $1000 device really missed the star of the show, the iPhone 11, which is priced significantly less than that. Additionally, the lowest-priced iPad got a revamp. In what other industry is the only focus on the most loaded, most expensive product the point to judge a company?

Whether it’s a September event, WWDC, or any other time, many in the crowd are Apple employees who worked hard on the products finally being revealed to the public—of course they’re excited. They should be proud of their work—in “our current moment,” we could use some nice moments. Despite the cheesy moments, people taking a couple of hours a few times a year to get excited about technology is why I tune in.

September 6, 2019

Snippet: The Deleted Years ☍

Dave Holmes for Esquire:

But if you were an early adopter of Apple Music Store, as I was, everything you bought from 2003 to 2009 is stuck on a dusty iPod for which a charger can no longer be found, or on a MacBook that’s three MacBooks ago. Whether you bought that whole first Kaiser Chiefs album or just plunked down the 99 cents for “I Predict A Riot,” you don’t have it anymore. It simply does not exist for you, and it didn’t even leave behind a record sleeve to let you know it ever did. Now the era is over, and only a handful of neglected Maxell compact discs reminds me that I used to be really into The Pipettes.

It seems that the point of the article is to highlight the changing music consumption from the 2000s that lost a lot of songs between physical media and streaming services, which is true for a lot of people. I think I may be the outlier in that I can account for this era quite well—and not just because it was basically the soundtrack of my college years. I used to make playlists for what I added to my library during specific times (typically related to academic terms), and they’ve survived to this day, so I could go back and tell you what was new for me in the Spring 2005 semester (“I Predict A Riot” happens to be there).

Currently, I don’t subscribe to a streaming service of any kind, but rather have been adding to an iTunes Library that originally started with my iBook G3 back in 2002. In meticulous Rob Gordon fashion, my music library was one of the most important things on my computer at that time (probably outside of any class work). It’s migrated from one Mac to another, one iPod to another (later iPhones), but the advent of iTunes Match has made it almost like a streaming service in that I don’t have to hoard it all locally. Eventually the day will come when I’ll probably give in and get Apple Music and most likely keep everything else in place.

August 29, 2019

Snippet: Apple to Offer Genuine Parts and Resources to Independent Repair Shops ☍

Apple PR:

Apple today announced a new repair program, offering customers additional options for the most common out-of-warranty iPhone repairs. Apple will provide more independent repair businesses — large or small — with the same genuine parts, tools, training, repair manuals and diagnostics as its Apple Authorized Service Providers (AASPs). The program is launching in the US with plans to expand to other countries.

“To better meet our customers’ needs, we’re making it easier for independent providers across the US to tap into the same resources as our Apple Authorized Service Provider network,” said Jeff Williams, Apple’s chief operating officer. “When a repair is needed, a customer should have confidence the repair is done right. We believe the safest and most reliable repair is one handled by a trained technician using genuine parts that have been properly engineered and rigorously tested.”

I’ve been watching the “right to repair” debate and have always had mixed feelings: while I am perfectly capable of following directions and understanding the risks for out-of-warranty repairs with a generally good rate of success, there’s a lot of people that think they’d be good and end up destroying their iPhones. While that wouldn’t affect me personally and they may learn a hard lesson, what if someone was to use some sort of faulty aftermarket battery? The repair would be considered “successful” but I think the concern of an iPhone catching on fire (airplane, crowded public place, etc.) does have some some merit. I also see the security aspect of keeping the various parts of one device intact as a whole to prevent tampering or the potential of unauthorized data access.

Getting official parts replacements for screens and batteries has always been fairly reasonable through Apple, but I think this is a great additional option, especially as it may be closer and less busy than an Apple Store. I think Apple requiring an Apple-certified technician do the work is much like many mechanics getting ASE certification.

August 28, 2019

Snippet: The Ghost of Apple Card Past ☍

Ken Segall:

The year was 2004, when Apple was a very different company. It had only recently reinvented the music industry with iPod and iTunes, forever changing the way we buy and discover music.

Steve thought the time was right for Apple to offer its own credit card. He would call it … (drum roll)… Apple Card.

It’s weird that in my mind, 2004 still doesn’t seem like that long ago, but then I think about the context of what Apple products would have been sold during that era and realize that it was a long time ago. Had this been launched, it probably would’ve been a first card for many people that attended college the same time as me, rather than some of the sign-up-and-get-a-free-t-shirt-or-pizza nonsense that was common before 2009.

August 26, 2019

Snippet: Apple Card: What vs. How ☍

Jean-Louis Gassée:

When it comes to rewards, the critics are correct: None of the Apple Card features and benefits top what other credit cards offer in this very diverse and fast-moving industry. And this is where the kommentariat get it wrong. Rewards isn’t the game that Apple Card is playing.

For a sufficiently large number of Apple customers, the new payment system is a classic How vs What proposition — and the “How” wins. The Wallet app offers complete control over purchases, payments, rebates, timing, and security, all in one place. As for security, three different card numbers track purchases made with the physical card, with a card number on line, or with Apple Pay on your Watch or iPhone. No need to use a special third party app, such as the excellent Mint. Everything is built into the Wallet, itself built in every iPhone and iPad.

I’ve dabbled in the credit card rewards game (always pay your balance off in full, kids!) and thought the Apple Card checked many of the boxes for me—most of my monthly transactions are with Apple Pay. Critics on blogs, discussion boards, and the like tend to focus on how the rewards and features aren’t there compared with some of the transfer-for-travel points cards, but it’s like many other Apple products—a nice interface, good design, and a pleasant experience.

Will I be canceling my other cards? Certainly not, but the Apple Card has taken a spot as my go-to default card, unless another one earns higher (my others have 4% or 5% on specific categories) or the merchant doesn’t take Mastercard. I’m also excited to see what changes come along in the future, like the surprise 3% back on Uber and Uber Eats.