November 14, 2019

Snippet: The 16-inch MacBook Pro ☍

Although just about anyone who is worth anything in the Apple universe has a post about the new 16-inch MacBook Pro, Marco Arment has been rather outspoken about the outgoing models and its flaws, so I was eager to see what his early thoughts included:

I’m on cloud nine. Look at this glorious keyboard! An Esc key! Inverted-T arrow keys! A millimeter of key travel! Enough spacing between the keys for our fingers to accurately orient themselves! And keystrokes will probably work, 100% of the time, for years!

Five years ago, nobody would’ve considered any of these noteworthy, and readers would’ve suspected you weren’t of sound mind if you included them in a review.

Five years ago, laptop keyboards were fine. Everyone was pretty much satisfied with the ones they had, they worked, and we never had to talk or think about them.

While I know that changes take time to redesign a product line, I still feel like Apple should have done this a few years ago instead of arguing how many times they’ve improved the butterfly keyboards. Still, it’s nice to see that this machine may be a first step in having portable Macs that we can get excited about.

November 7, 2019

Snippet: AT&T Price-Hikes Existing Customers for a “Bonus” ☍

Sean Hollister for The Verge:

AT&T has a gift for wireless subscribers on many of its old Mobile Share Value data plans: it’s giving them an extra 15GB of “bonus” data — and it’s making them pay an extra $10 a month for that “bonus.”

It’s almost like the company is forcing people to move to a more expensive plan, only AT&T figured out a way to make that not technically true. Instead, it’s worded in a way that suggests the company is providing you with a SURPRISE BENEFIT that costs you money! It is quite literally an offer you can’t refuse.

AT&T has done nonsense like this a few times in the past and it’s just slimy. They want to reduce their massive debt and are nickel and diming their way out of it. It also seems that it’s a way to pressure people into their unlimited plans, which have various caveats and limitations.

While voting with your wallet is always a great option, AT&T does have a very good network. If you are on one of the affected plans, but want to stick with AT&T, downgrade to a cheaper plan (since many have had increases in price and data allotments) or call 611, say you want to cancel, and see what the retentions department can offer.

November 1, 2019

Snippet: Google Buys Fitbit for $2.1 Billion ☍

Chaim Gartenberg for The Verge:

Google has just announced that it’s buying wearable company Fitbit for $2.1 billion. In a blog post announcing the news, Google SVP of devices and services Rick Osterloh said that the Fitbit purchase is “an opportunity to invest even more in Wear OS as well as introduce Made by Google wearable devices into the market.” […]

Under the deal, Fitbit will be joining Google itself. (It’s similar to the current situation with Nest, which is wholly under Google now, compared to when Alphabet had originally acquired the smart home company but left it as a separate division under the corporate structure.)

According to a separate press release issued by Fitbit, the company will still take privacy for heath and fitness data seriously, noting that “Fitbit health and wellness data will not be used for Google ads.”

While the combination makes a lot of sense, I still don’t feel great about it. As Google, Facebook, and Amazon purchase smaller companies to integrate with their products, it’s harder to find things that don’t have a creepy feel to them. Fitbit health and wellness data may not be used for Google ads, but what kinds of data analysis could they still be used for?

I try to look at the industry as a whole, recognize my own bias, but increasingly it’s feeling like many options are Apple or giving up some level of privacy and I’m not sure how I feel about such limited choice.

October 30, 2019

News: Apple Reports Q4 Results

Apple announced financial results for its fiscal 2019 fourth quarter ending September 28, 2019. The Company posted quarterly revenue of $64 billion, an increase of 2 percent from the year-ago quarter, and quarterly earnings per diluted share of $3.03, up 4 percent. International sales accounted for 60 percent of the quarter’s revenue…

October 17, 2019

Snippet: It Is Currently Impossible to Exchange Money for an iPhone ☍

Jason Koebler for Vice (via Nick Heer):

I think that buying a new phone is a shameful but occasionally necessary activity to continue living in the modern world. I disagree with most of Apple’s corporate philosophies on recycling, repair, and its walled-garden, monopolistic approach to the App Store. I do not like spending time in Apple Stores, nor do I like giving the company money, but I appreciate Apple’s commitment to privacy and security, and my current phone is more than three years old, has been repaired three times, and no longer takes photos or connects to WiFi. It is, unfortunately, Time for a New Phone.

The article makes it seem like Koebler would rather talk about how he’s not going to buy an iPhone as some sort of badge of honor. There’s almost this notion that some tech writers can only be against anything new. You don’t see writers who cover the automotive industry argue that while the new model of x is perfectly fine, they’re personally sticking with their 2002 Ford Focus to show everyone! But, back to the unavailable iPhones:

If you want to buy a new iPhone, there are two basic options: You can either become beholden to Apple for the next two years of your life by paying monthly installments of between $30 and $60, or you can give the company a bunch of money up front. […]

The problem is that, at the moment, it is nearly impossible to exchange US currency for an iPhone 11 Pro…

Koebler apparently forgets that most carriers offer financing and there’s plenty of places that do trade-ins (although his phone sounds like it’s on its last leg), so there are ways to get them without full price or Apple’s financing. While inventory is tight at times, they actually just don’t have the model he wants right now:

It is worth noting that you can buy the 64GB version of the iPhone 11 Pro at most stores, which is a version of the phone that shouldn’t exist because that is not enough storage.

I haven’t seen this argument very often, as it’s not like the days of the 16GB iPhones wearing out their welcome. For many people in 2019, 64GB will still feel cavernous, and they probably would be looking at the regular 11 anyway (the 128GB model is a good value proposition). At this point, my advice would be to order it, wait the week or two for the probably lower-volume model to ship, and try to enjoy it.