The End-of-Embargo Edition Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The iPhones 7, by John Gruber, Daring Fireball

Now that I’ve spent time with them, however, I think I want a jet black iPhone 7. I will be jealous of the Portrait mode on the Plus when Apple ships the update, but it doesn’t feel like enough to justify the way it feels in my hand and pants pocket. (After just three days, my left pinkie is killing me.) That the telephoto lens is “only” f/2.8 — I put quotes around “only” because that’s arguably a remarkable aperture for a lens system and sensor this small — and lacks OIS makes the Plus a little less compelling to me as well. The battery life of the Plus is impressive, but I made it through the day 99 percent of the time with my 6S last year, so the improved battery life of the regular iPhone 7 should be fine for me. It all comes down to the camera. And the camera decision all comes down to Portrait mode. And Portrait mode isn’t available yet.

Choosing The iPhone 7 Is Tougher Than In The Past, by Walt Mossberg, The Verge

You won’t go wrong buying the iPhone 7 if you can tolerate the earbud issue, especially if you’re on an installment plan like Apple’s that just gets you a new iPhone every year. You could get the iPhone 7 and then the big redesign next year, as long as you keep paying the monthly fee.

But, despite the undisputed improvements, this new iPhone just isn’t as compelling an upgrade as many of its predecessors. Some might want to wait a year for the next really big thing — and maybe a better audio solution to boot.

iPhone 7 Review, by Nilay Patel, The Verge

The most interesting feature of the iPhone 7 Plus’ new dual camera isn’t shipping at launch. Apple’s making a big bet on iMessage and Siri apps in iOS 10 but it hasn’t paid off yet. Apps haven’t been updated to use the Taptic Engine or the new wide color gamut display. The entire ecosystem of new headphones and adapters required to make use of Lightning and wireless audio is just getting off the ground. Only Apple or Beats headphones offer the best wireless audio experience, and you might not like how they sound or fit. By the time developers even come close to hitting the performance limits of the A10 Fusion chip, Apple will be shipping the A11 Fusion Pro with six blades.

The entire time I was using the iPhone 7, I felt like I had a prototype of next year’s rumored drastic iPhone redesign disguised as an iPhone 6. All those bold bets on the future are legitimately exciting, but here in the present using the iPhone 7 in a case feels a lot like using a iPhone 6S with a weirder home button and more adapters.

iPhone 7 And 7 Plus Review: Great Annual Upgrades With One Major Catch, by Andrew Cunningham, Ars Technica

If you understand things best when they’re phrased as tired idioms: the missing headphone jack is a fly in the iPhone 7’s ointment. Plenty of people will be happy to scoop out the fly and use the rest of the probably-fine ointment. It’s good ointment! There’s just a fly in it. And the transition from wired to wireless is going to be more painful now than it will be a year or two down the line when more accessories and devices have adapted to follow Apple’s lead. Waterproofing and better battery life have been common iPhone feature requests for years and the camera and speed improvements are nothing to sneeze at, but you’ll need to buy into Apple’s vision of the future if you want to get them.

Review: Apple iPhone 7 And 7 Plus, by David Pierce, Wired

After a week, I’ve stopped trying to plug things into my phone’s phantom headphone jack. But I cannot, for the life of me, get used to the iPhone 7’s new home button. It’s not a button anymore, just a capacitive surface that uses haptic buzzes and taps to provide feedback. That’s great for the longevity of your phone, since the home button tends to break before anything else. It’s even really cool in some places on the iPhone, lending a certain physicality to on-screen stuff by buzzing when you get to the end of a list or rattling like an actual machine gun when you fire upon the unsuspecting enemy. But when I press to unlock my phone, my thumb vibrates like it’s about to dent the glass. It’s not like it ruins the phone, but I miss the click.

Review: iPhone 7 And AirPods, by Jim Dalrymple, The Loop

What I want from Apple is to build devices that solve complex problems with simple solutions. I want them to make things more efficient for me as a user without going through any pain from using their products. That’s exactly what they provided with the iPhone 7 and AirPods.

Review: Apple’s New AirPods, by Steve Kovach, Business Insider

There’s a lot to like about the AirPods. The intelligent pairing and processing power of the W1 chip solve a lot of problems I didn’t even realize wireless headphones had until now. And using Siri without feeling tethered to my iPhone is a delight.

However, the lack of audio controls and the awkward design are two major drawbacks for me. Hopefully Apple can develop some new controls before or shortly after the AirPods go on sale. Otherwise, I think it’s going to turn off a lot of people. And while it’s too late to do anything about the design, the AirPods are at least comfortable and you don’t have to worry about them falling out.

Review: Apple AirPods, by David Pierce, Wired

The oddest thing about the AirPods isn’t how they look; it’s that Apple’s evidently not all that concerned with how they sound. Your $159 doesn’t buy you any better audio than you’ll get from the EarPods that come free in the box with your iPhone. I mean, look: they sound fine. Statistically, most people are fine with the EarPods, and they’ll be fine with the AirPods too. But if you’ve ever purchased a pair of headphones that cost more than $50, I’d bet they sound better than the AirPods. If you’ve spent more than $100, they definitely do.

What It’s Like To Use Apple’s New Totally Wireless Earbuds, by Lisa Eadicicco, Time

The main drawback I’ve encountered with Apple’s AirPods so far is superficial yet important: their appearance. A white stem hangs down from your ears while wearing them, making them anything but discrete. This elongated portion is where the headphone’s battery, antenna, and microphone are located.

iOS 10 Review: It's All About Messages, by Raymond Wong, Mashable

There are a handful of genuinely great things in iOS 10 that I have embraced, but a lot of the padding is really kind of meh.

Messages, however, is the primary reason everyone should update. It's the best new thing about iOS 10 and you don't want to be left out when everyone else has updated.

watchOS 3: The BirchTree Review, by Matt Birchler

I’ve been living with all these features for 3 months, and they all feel natural to me at this point. Apps that take forever to load are a thing of the past! Sharing my activity data with friends is just a part of my day-to-day at this point. All of these additions and improvements to watchOS feel like they’ve always been here, even though they are still so new.

If you didn’t “get” smart watches before today and don’t see the appeal, watchOS 3 isn’t going to change your mind. It’s mostly the same features you know from the Apple Watch, but refined. However, if you like the idea of a smart watch but think that Apple didn’t nail the execution the first couple times around, then this might be the update that wins you over.

Designing Apple Products

How Apple Made Its Jet Black iPhone None More Black, by Margaret Rhodes, Wired

Most manufacturers do this with a chemical wash or electrochemical polishing, but Apple’s process is different. “This is a first time ever new method of polishing,” says Robert Probert, author of Aluminum How To: The Chromatizing, Anodizing, Hard Coating Handbook. Where a typical manufacturing process might see polishing compounds applied to the phone casing by a rotating buffer wheel, Apple appears to have combined those compounds with the powdery media seen here. “Instead of tumbling or wheel-rubbing,” Probert says, “Apple is wiping the parts through this powdery media.”

A Closer Look At Apple's CPU Improvements For iPhone 7 And Apple Watch, by Chris Jenkins, MacRumors

At last Wednesday's media event, Apple introduced two new processors - the A10 Fusion for iPhone 7 and 7 Plus and the S2 for Apple WatchSeries 2. Although Apple only briefly covered the S2 during the presentation, it did spend a good deal of time talking about A10 Fusion. The 'Fusion' suffix refers to the heterogeneous architecture that the A10 features, which has two high-power, high-throughput cores and two much smaller cores that are more power efficient.

Apple also introduced another very important piece of standalone silicon in its new AirPods, dubbed the W1 chip. In total, this represents a great deal of engineering work done by Apple over the last year, and the A10 is the most significant to Apple's system-on-a-chip (SoC) line since the company's transition to 64-bit.

What Happened To Apple’s Industrial Design Team?, by Dustin Curtis

Maybe Apple has lost the ability to experiment due to rapid growth and unprecedented scale. Maybe the team itself has become too complacent, or too scared, to make radical changes. No matter the reason, it appears from the outside that Apple’s industrial design team has slowly lost its genius–or at the very least its cadence–over the past few years. But there is one other potential explanation: maybe Apple has taken the enormous–one might even say courageous–risk of spending all of its resources on far-future product designs to the severe detriment of current products. I sincerely hope so.

Designing Non-Apple Products

Competing With The iPhone's Specs Is Harder Than It Seems, by Vlad Savov, The Verge

As an Android manufacturer, then, you have to overcome a series of impediments just to get on an even footing with the iPhone. Most of these actually require you to build something better than the iPhone (and probably price it cheaper) so as to entice both users and developers to your product rather than Apple’s. It’s the sign of a competitive market that so many companies are taking on the challenge, and we’re getting some damn fine engineering out of it, but let’s not forget where the iPhone’s strengths lie.

Yes, the iPhone is defined by its superior user experience andunmatched ecosystem of apps and accessories, but the nexus of it all lies within the phone itself. The iPhone’s specs might not seem imposing, but they are. And when a new iPhone comes out and Apple casually adds a 14 percent larger battery, a wider camera aperture, and the latest generation of its mobile processor, its competitors are forced to go even further and reach even deeper to keep up.

Working With Apple Products

Apple News Tweak Dings Publishers’ Websites, by Jack Marshall, Wall Street Journal

[L]ast month Apple made a change to Spotlight so that articles are now displayed from the Apple News app, instead of from publishers’ websites, according to some of Apple’s publishing partners.

Shailesh Prakash, chief technology officer for the Washington Post, said the Spotlight screen has been a “massive traffic driver,” but noted that traffic to its website from Spotlight declined beginning about a month ago. Meanwhile, traffic to its Apple News content increased at a similar rate, according to usage metrics Apple shared with the Post.


9.7-inch Logitech Create Keyboard For iPad Pro: An Ideal Typing Companion, by Jason Snell, Six Colors

Most importantly, the Create provides a stable base so that you can write with the device in your lap. When closed, it looks like a thick iPad case, but when you open it and dock the iPad atop the keyboard’s Smart Connector dock—which supplies power to the keyboard—it becomes a mini laptop. It’s a huge improvement in the stability offered by something like the Smart Keyboard.

Fractionally Improved, by And Now It's All This

There’s a new version of PCalc in the App Store, and it has a great new feature for those of us who have to work with lengths measured in inches and fractions of an inch. It’s a display mode that allows all your calculations to be kept in fractional notation rather than converted to decimal form.

Lookup 3.0 Improves Upon Its Elegance & Brings Along An iMessage App, by Preshit Deorukhkar, Beautiful Pixels

LookUp is a beautiful and elegant dictionary app for iPhone and Apple Watch [...] Today, the app has been updated to Version 3.0 that introduces a lovely dashboard, a refined definition screen and a brand new iMessage app.

Google Releases iPhone Version Of Cardboard Camera App For Taking VR Photos, by Jordan Kahn, 9to5Mac

The app allows users to capture and share three-dimensional panoramas that Google calls VR Photos and share them for viewing in smartphone-based VR viewers like its own Google Cardboard and others.


Reconciling Past-You With Future-You, by Erica Sadun

Never underestimate future you’s stupidity. Comment, comment, comment and while you’re at it, write tests. Tests can save you the whole “What I was doing here?” because you can just look at what is broken and what you expected to work.

What Could I Possibly Learn From A Mentor Half My Age? Plenty, by Phyllis Korkki, New York Times

So, the reverse mentorship was extremely beneficial, but there was one way in which it could have been better: I could have tried to mentor Talya at the same time. The best cross-generational mentorships work in both directions, Ms. Arbit of BridgeWorks said.

“What do I have to offer?” I asked her, suddenly discounting three decades of career experience, which was ridiculous.

But I think older workers at times do minimize their value, or their value is minimized by others, as society glamorizes the latest glittery technology. Sometimes the old way of doing things can inform and improve the new, and older workers may be the ones with the wisdom to realize this.


Please Turn On Your Phone In The Museum, by Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic

Museum directors are grappling with how technology has changed the ways people engage with exhibits. But instead of fighting it, some institutions are using technology to convince the public that, far from becoming obsolete, museums are more vital than ever before. Here’s what those efforts look like.

Apple Is Attemping To Sort Out iPhone Upgrade Program Preorder Issues, by Oscar Raymundo, Macworld

Apple seems to be addressing the issue, however. Over the weekend, Apple updated the iPhone Upgrade Program reservation page to include the following fine print: “Due to high demand, the model you’d like may not be available. Please call 1-800-MY-APPLE and mention the iPhone Upgrade Program. A Specialist will help you find the model you want.”

Customers who have called the number have reported that Apple is taking their information and what iPhone they want while the company figures out a viable solution. These customers were told that they would be receiving a call back in two business days.

Melanie Ehrenkranz And Apple’s Response To Her Criticism Over The Paucity Of Women Onstage At Last Week’s Event, by John Gruber, Daring Fireball

But here’s the thing: I think the email from Apple is quite reasonable. It’s not great, and should have been much better, but publishing the full email makes Ehrenkranz look like a sensationalist jerk far more than it makes Apple look indifferent to the company’s diversity issues.

A Life In Google Maps, by Leo Prieto, Catapult

There are two competing theories about why and how we forget. One holds that old memories degrade, actually becoming less distinct over time; the other, that they remain essentially pristine but inaccessible, smothered by new memories that have been paved over top of them. Inside Google Maps, in a way, both of these are true. Old images are grainier, yellower, like Polaroids—not from degradation, but from a kind of reverse degradation, camera technology getting better over time. And they’re overwritten constantly, sometimes frequently—every four years or so even in our old suburb, more often in a major city. They’re accessible, but only if you know where to look: a small clock icon, just a few pixels across. And for many years, and most days, and nearly every minute, there is no record at all.

Bottom of the Page

I remembered I was excited with iOS 10 when Apple first demonstrated the operating system back in WWDC. But now that the update is out, I've sort-of forgotten why I was so excited.


Thanks for reading.