The Smartphone-Landscape Edition Friday, November 16, 2018

The Ubiquity Of Smartphones, As Captured By Photographers, by Alan Taylor, The Atlantic

According to reports issued by several market-research firms, including Forrester Research, the total number of smartphone users worldwide will reach 3 billion this year—40 percent of the human population. For many, these versatile handheld devices have become indispensable tools, providing connections to loved ones, entertainment, business applications, shopping opportunities, windows into the greater world of social media, news, history, education, and more. And of course, they can always be put to use for a quick selfie. With so many devices in so many hands now, the visual landscape has changed greatly, making it a rare event to find oneself in a group of people anywhere in the world and not see at least one of them using a phone. Collected here: a look at that smartphone landscape, and some of the stories of the phones’ owners.

The Best Tool For Creativity On Your iPhone Might Just Be The Notes App, by Aude White, Vulture

"It’s really more about getting some creativity out during a long day. You might’ve forgotten your sketchbook or pen, but you probably haven’t forgotten your iPhone (hopefully!), so you can still get that creativity out."

Back to the Future

A Look Back At The Original iPad Mini, by Stephen Hackett, MacStories

Today, the iPad mini feels a little forgotten. The iPad has fallen in price, now starting at the mini's original price point of $329. The iPad mini 4, powered by the Apple A8, was announced in September 2016 and is offered at $399 for 128 GB of storage. It lacks almost all modern iPad features, but recent rumors say a new model could arrive next year.

As iPhones have gotten bigger and the entry-level iPad has become more capable, the iPad mini has been squeezed on both sides. Does it still have enough ground to deserve a refresh in 2019?

Why The MacBook Air Might Spell The End Of Configurable Macs, by Jason Snell, Macworld

What does shopping for a Mac look like if all you can choose is how much storage and how big your display is? A lot like shopping for an iPad. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, especially when you consider that Apple is currently making six different laptop models. Even if it cuts that number down a bit, it’s quite likely that the company will offer choices. Even if the MacBook Pro were to end up with an ARM processor, I’d imagine that Apple will do what it does now—namely offer a few different variations with a mix of features at various price points. You may not be able to configure a faster processor in a future ARM MacBook Pro, but Apple may just offer a faster model for a higher price.

Is the MacBook Air’s single processor option the future of the Mac? I’m not sure even Apple knows for sure—after all, it sure feels like Apple wasn’t even planning on bringing the the MacBook Air back before a year or two ago. But if I had to guess, I’d predict that the days of configuring which processor you want in your new Mac are numbered.


‘Shot On iPhone XR’ Campaign Showcases Spectacular Images, by Ed Hardy, Cult of Mac

The iPhone XR camera isn’t as advanced as the one in Apple’s pricier XS series, but you’d be hard pressed to see the difference in some stunning images Apple is showing off today.

These pictures were contributed to the “Shot on iPhone” campaign that highlights what these phones can do.

Apple Mac Mini 2018 Review: The Mini Gets Mighty And Pricey, by Nick Statt, The Verge

Once upon a time, the Mac mini was a way to get Apple’s desktop software on the cheap, if you only cared really about browsing the web, managing files and media, and enjoying the cross-platform benefits of using macOS and iOS. The new Mac mini demands you treat it like a proper computer, with a price to match, and that will understandably push some percentage of old mini owners toward settling for a Chromebook or simply an iPad for most at-home computing needs.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy this machine, especially if you really do want a clean and uncluttered home workstation with a full mouse and keyboard setup. This device is powerful, compact, and everything a power user would want the Mac mini to be. Plus, it gives you the freedom to buy the peripherals you want at the price you’re comfortable with, so long as you’re okay starting at that $799 base price and shelling out for more speed, memory, and storage. For a certain type of Mac user, myself included, the new Mac mini strikes a solid balance. But it’s no longer the budget machine so many fell in love with.

Apple’s Final Cut Pro X Just Got A Big Update — Here’s What’s New, by Greg Kumparak, TechCrunch

While much of FCPX is getting polished up in this release, the biggest change is what it allows for moving forward: workflow extensions. These extensions allow third-party apps and services to hook right into FCPX and build on top of the native interface and functionality.

Apple partnered with three companies to build out extensions for launch day

Panic’s Transmit Returns To The Mac App Store, by John Vorhees, MacStories

By targeting two very different types of users, the Mac App Store gives Panic a simple end-to-end solution to reach a new set of short-term users who might not have been willing to pay the up front cost of the app before. Meanwhile, the paid-up-front option is still available for heavy users. This is a model that I could see working well for many pro-level apps.


5 Ways Smart People Sabotage Their Success, by Alice Boyes, Harvard Business Review

Mark was always one of the smartest kids in his class. He’s done well in his career, but when he checks Facebook, he sees people he outperformed at school who have now achieved more. Likewise, there are colleagues at his firm who have leapfrogged him. Sometimes he wonders, “What am I doing wrong?”

Sound familiar? You might relate to Mark yourself, or have an employee or loved one who struggles with similar feelings. Raw intelligence is undoubtedly a huge asset, but it isn’t everything. And sometimes, when intellectually gifted people don’t achieve as much as they’d like to, it’s because they’re subtly undermining themselves. If you’re in this situation, the good news is that when you understand these foibles you can turn them around. Here are five I’ve seen smart people particularly struggle with.


The Case Against Quantum Computing, by Mikhail Dyakonov, IEEE Spectrum

We’ve been told that quantum computers could “provide breakthroughs in many disciplines, including materials and drug discovery, the optimization of complex manmade systems, and artificial intelligence.” We’ve been assured that quantum computers will “forever alter our economic, industrial, academic, and societal landscape.” We’ve even been told that “the encryption that protects the world’s most sensitive data may soon be broken” by quantum computers. It has gotten to the point where many researchers in various fields of physics feel obliged to justify whatever work they are doing by claiming that it has some relevance to quantum computing.


In light of all this, it’s natural to wonder: When will useful quantum computers be constructed? The most optimistic experts estimate it will take 5 to 10 years. More cautious ones predict 20 to 30 years. (Similar predictions have been voiced, by the way, for the last 20 years.) I belong to a tiny minority that answers, “Not in the foreseeable future.” Having spent decades conducting research in quantum and condensed-matter physics, I’ve developed my very pessimistic view. It’s based on an understanding of the gargantuan technical challenges that would have to be overcome to ever make quantum computing work.