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★ Don’t Hold Your Breath for an iPhone Edition

21 October, by John Gruber[ —]

After my link today to Greg Koenig’s excellent explanation for why the new ceramic Apple Watch Edition does not presage the use of a similar material in next year’s iPhone (in short: Apple needs to produce up to one million iPhones per day, and the ceramic process Apple is using for the watch would take way too long to meet that demand), several readers asked if Apple might go the Apple Watch Edition route: make a special ceramic iPhone Edition that sells at a much higher price.

Apple certainly could do this. But I don’t think they would. I’ve often said that the iPhone reminds me of Andy Warhol’s great quote about Coca-Cola and America:

What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.

A significantly more expensive limited edition ceramic iPhone would break from this, and in my opinion it would take away from the iPhone’s brand. iPhones aren’t cheap, but they are affordable for many, and everyone who gets one knows they’re getting the best phone in the world. An expensive limited edition iPhone would mean most iPhone buyers would know they’re only getting second best.

Apple has done this with the watch — in spades last year, with the $10–20,000 gold models — but watches are different animals. Watches, in general, have never been like Coke. There have always been low-cost watches and luxury watches.

Enough With the 10-Year Anniversary Stuff

Let me add here a note about something that’s been bothering me for months: the notion that Apple is going to do something “special” next year to commemorate the iPhone’s 10th anniversary. I would wager heavily that they won’t. Apple under Tim Cook is a little bit more prone to retrospection than it was under Steve Jobs, who was almost obsessively forward-thinking, but only slightly. They made a 40-years-in-40-seconds video to commemorate the company’s 40th anniversary this year, for example, but it was only 40 seconds long. Blink and you missed it.

Apple is not going to make a special edition of any product — let alone the iPhone, their most important product — just to mark an anniversary. Don’t tell me about the 20th Anniversary Macintosh — that was a product from the old Apple that was heading toward bankruptcy, and a perfect example of why they shouldn’t do something special to mark something as arbitrary as an anniversary.

A lot of this 10th anniversary of the iPhone speculation is regarding the rumors that next year’s new iPhones might sport a new industrial design, with edge-to-edge displays that eliminate both the top and bottom bezels from the front face. If such a design does appear next year, the timing will be purely coincidental.

What’s the logic otherwise? That Apple could have debuted that design this year, but didn’t, simply because they wanted to hold off until the iPhone’s oh-so-precious 10th anniversary? That is not how a technology company operates. To maintain its position as the leading phone-maker in the world, Apple must push forward as fast as they can. They only know one way to play the game: as hard as they can.

Nothing gets held back from any Apple product just to make the next one more special. If there is going to be a new edge-to-edge iPhone design, it will appear as soon as it is ready — no sooner, and no later. It would make no sense to hold back a more visually impressive and practically superior1 design just to be able to call it the “10th anniversary iPhone” a year from now. That would mean selling fewer iPhones this year while sticking with the familiar 6/6S form factor, and not selling any additional iPhones next year. No one — no one — is going to buy any new iPhone just because it’s the 10th anniversary edition.

Every year, Apple releases the best iPhone it is able to make. That’s it. It makes no more sense for a tech company to hold back a new design for an entire year just to mark an anniversary than it would for a, say, 99-year-old sports team to bench its star player for a year to make their 100-year-anniversary team even more special. I do believe that Apple leads the industry, but they don’t lead by such a margin that they can afford to pull their punches just for an “anniversary” marketing gimmick.

I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple never even mentions next year that 2017 is the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone. And if they do mention it, I think it will be a brief passing reference on stage, not a part of any advertising or marketing campaign.2 New iPhones — new Apple products, period — are marketed as new. Anniversaries are about getting old.

  1. If Apple goes with an edge-to-edge display, they can either keep the display sizes the same (4.7- and 5.5-inch) and greatly reduce the overall size of the devices, or they can keep the device sizes the same as they are now and greatly increase the size of the displays. Either way is a win. (My guess though is that Apple will shrink the devices — Apple likes smaller devices.) ↩︎

  2. I’ll enjoy a nice serving of homemade claim chowder if Apple goes and names next year’s iPhone the “iPhone 10” and makes the anniversary central to its branding. ↩︎︎

BuzzFeed News: ‘Hyperpartisan Facebook Pages Are Publishing False and Misleading Information at an Alarming Rate’

20 October, by John Gruber[ —]

BuzzFeed News:

However, during the time period analyzed, we found that right-wing pages were more prone to sharing false or misleading information than left-wing pages. Mainstream pages did not share any completely false information, but did publish a small number of posts that included unverified claims. (More on that below.)

We rated 86 out of a total 666 right-wing Facebook posts as mostly false, for a percentage of 13%. Another 167 posts (25%) were rated as a mixture of true and false. Viewed separately or together (38%), this is an alarmingly high percentage.

Left-wing pages did not earn as many “mostly false” or “mixture of true and false” ratings, but they did share false and misleading content. We identified 22 mostly false posts out of a total of 471 from these pages, which means that just under 5% of left-wing posts were untrue. We rated close to 14% of these posts (68) a mixture of true and false. Taken together, nearly a fifth of all left-wing posts we analyzed were either partially or mostly false.

Christopher Mims:

I once wrote a column arguing Facebook probably hasn’t led to more partisanship. I now think that’s completely wrong.

I now think Facebook is contributing to the decline of western civilization. By helping spread misinformation.

We replaced civil society w/ self-selecting, self-reinforcing loops of affinity feeding our brains w/ social validation of dangerous untruth.

Samsung Issues Takedown on Video of Grand Theft Auto 5 Mod Turning Galaxy Note 7 Into a Bomb

20 October, by John Gruber[ —]

Mike Masnick, writing for Techdirt:

What it is not, however, is copyright infringement. I don’t care how you slice or dice it. It’s not copyright infringement. Samsung may be embarrassed by its exploding devices, and it may not like people making fun of them or turning them into weapons in video games, but that doesn’t matter. There’s no copyright infringement against Samsung’s copyrights in doing that. And it’s flat out ridiculous that Samsung appears to have made a copyright claim over such a video. Hopefully whoever put up the video challenges this and YouTube comes to its senses…

This is only going to bring more attention to the GTA mod.

Nintendo Switch

20 October, by John Gruber[ —]

Teaser video for Nintendo’s upcoming new gaming platform. Seems intriguing — connected to your TV it works like a traditional console, but you can undock it to use it as a portable.

Undocked, it’s more like a tablet than a phone, size-wise, which sounds right to me. In the same way that phones have completely supplanted pocket-sized point-and-shoot cameras, phones completely own the pocket-sized space for gaming. The Switch is the equivalent of a DSLR for gaming.

Greg Koenig: ‘Why Your Next iPhone Won’t Be Ceramic’

20 October, by John Gruber[ —]

Greg Koenig on why the ceramic Apple Watch Edition does not presage a ceramic iPhone:

All of this circles us back to that little booklet that shipped with the ceramic Watch Edition. I think it is a safe bet to say that if Apple was about to leverage a whole new process for the efficient manufacturing of precision ceramics for next year’s iPhone, this new Watch model would be a test balloon for at least some of those techniques. Now, it is important to note that Apple has always skillfully knife edged their marketing discussion about manufacturing by being both hyper honest in their descriptions, while being quite vague about the nitty gritty details. So if we can all agree their materials are honest, let me be very plain - there is nothing revolutionary or new about how Apple is making the ceramic Edition watch.

The process they describe is meticulously executed, and because of the nature of the design — wherein ceramics are mimicking the engineering layout of far more easily produced materials - probably the most laboriously produced ceramic watch on the market. In fact, if we scale the numbers used in the booklet up to iPhone size devices and cycle times, Apple would need 2 football field’s worth of kiln space for each ceramic iPhone to sinter for the requisite 36 hours. For the 2 hours of hard ceramic machining to finish the case details, Apple would need to go from 20,000 CNC machines, to 250,000. They would need another 200,000 employees to perform the 2 hours of hand polishing to “bring out the strength and luster.”

Fantastic article.

As Koenig emphasizes, at peak production Apple is manufacturing one million iPhones per day. If and when Apple switches from aluminum to a new material for iPhone bodies, it’ll have to be a material with which they can achieve the same scale.

Grading on a Curve, Google Pixel Edition

20 October, by John Gruber[ —]

Rene Ritchie:

So, everyone who’d been criticizing Apple and iPhone design immediately called Google out for aping it?

Not so much.

Well, at least they called Google and Pixel out for the same things they called Apple and iPhone out for?

Again, not so much.

Surely they drew the line at Google’s 2016 flagship missing optical image stabilization — not just in the regular-size, but in the Plus XL model as well — stereo speakers, and water resistance — things that were pointed to last year as indicators Apple was falling behind?

Turns out, not deal-breakers either.

As I wrote last month, when the first non-blurry images of the Pixel leaked.

Apple Sues Mobile Star for Selling Counterfeit Power Adapters and Charging Cables Through Amazon

20 October, by John Gruber[ —]

Patently Apple, quoting from a lawsuit filed by Apple yesterday:

Apple purchased the power products identified below (ASIN B012YEWP2K) from Amazon.com and determined that they were counterfeit. Apple was informed by Amazon.com, and upon that basis is informed and believes, that Mobile Star was the source of those particular counterfeit power products purchased by Apple.

Consumers, relying on Amazon.com’s reputation, have no reason to suspect the power products they purchased from Amazon.com are anything but genuine. This is particularly true where, as here, the products are sold directly “by Amazon.com” as genuine Apple products using Apple’s own product marketing images. Consumers are likewise unaware that the counterfeit Apple products that Amazon.com sourced from Mobile Star have not been safety certified or properly constructed, lack adequate insulation and/or have inadequate spacing between low voltage and high voltage circuits, and pose a significant risk of overheating, fire, and electrical shock. Indeed, consumer reviews of counterfeit Apple power adapters purchased from Amazon.com and from the above ASIN report that the counterfeit products overheat, smolder, and in some cases catch fire.

As for the products sold by third parties, and “fulfilled by Amazon”:

Apple makes great efforts to combat the distribution and sale of counterfeit Apple products bearing its trademarks. Despite Apple’s efforts, fake Apple products continue to flood Amazon.com. Each month, Apple identifies and reports many thousands of listings for counterfeit and infringing Apple products to Amazon.com under its notice and takedown procedures. Over the last nine months, Apple, as part of its ongoing brand protection efforts, has purchased well over 100 iPhone devices, Apple power products, and Lightning cables sold as genuine by sellers on Amazon.com and delivered through Amazon’s “Fulfillment by Amazon” program. Apple’s internal examination and testing for these products revealed almost 90% of these products are counterfeit.

I can certainly see why Apple is suing Mobile Star (hopefully right out of business), but why not sue Amazon too? This is shameful. I’ve known for a while never to trust anything merely “fulfilled by Amazon”, but I’m actually surprised that even the “Apple” branded chargers sold directly by Amazon are dangerous counterfeits as well.

Darrell Etherington’s Google Pixel Camera Review

19 October, by John Gruber[ —]

Darrell Etherington, testing the Pixel camera side-by-side with the iPhone 7 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S7:

Outdoors, you can see that while all three are very capable cameras, there are some differences that might sway personal opinion regarding which is “best.” The iPhone 7 Plus delivers more vibrant colors, with brighter defaults for light areas in both HDR and standard modes (it produces both in your gallery by default depending on the scene, so that’s how I shot and presented them here). […]

Indoors, the differences between the three cameras are more pronounced, especially in very low light. Here, the Galaxy S7 appears to have the edge when it comes to color balance, as well as noise and even possibly detail. The iPhone 7 Plus does appear to be more accurate in terms of its color capture, but it’s still tough to pick an outright favorite. The Pixel XL, to its credit, does very well in the portrait under adequate, but not bright, indoor lighting.

Ultimately, numbered ratings from third-party analyst sites aside, this is a race so close that it’s impossible to call, except by personal preference. Each of these smartphone cameras excels in some regard, but the best end result is in the eye of the beholder since none exhibits any serious flaws.

I agree with his assessment based on his examples. The Pixel’s electronic image stabilization for video is very well done, but it’s clearly not as good as optical image stabilization.

CNet Compares Google Pixel and iPhone 7 Plus Cameras

19 October, by John Gruber[ —]

Vanessa Hand Orellana:

If you tend to shoot portraits and that’s what matters to you most, the iPhone 7 Plus is an obvious choice. Portrait mode is dSLR-esque, and we only expect it to improve by the time it gets a public release.

But if brighter colors, sharper detail throughout the backgrounds of photos and capable low-light photography is more important, it’s the Pixel. I have to admit, I initially thought Google over-promised on its new flagship — especially after those disappointing Nexus cameras — but I was wrong. It’s a new chapter for Google phones and this one earned its name.

I agree with her assessment based on most of the examples shown. I was especially impressed with the Pixel’s image from the low-light environment in the wine cellar. However, they shot both on tripods. I would’ve liked to see examples from the same environment while handheld — the iPhone 7 Plus’s optical image stabilization should make a big difference while handheld, but no difference at all on a tripod.

Why don’t any of these Pixel-vs.-iPhone camera comparisons mention wide color capture?

Brian X. Chen’s Google Pixel Review

19 October, by John Gruber[ —]

Brian X. Chen, writing for the NYT:

The absence of a major competing Android device works out especially well for Google because the Pixel is, relatively speaking, mediocre. It is slower than Apple’s iPhone 7 and the Galaxy S7, Samsung’s smaller flagship phone. Photos shot with Pixel’s camera don’t look as good as the iPhone’s. And Google’s built-in artificially intelligent virtual assistant, called Assistant, is still fairly dumb.

Chen’s Pixel review is the least enthusiastic I’ve seen. His comments on the camera — he labels it “mediocre” — are out of line with most reviews. I’m not saying he’s wrong, just that his take is quite different.

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