I'm Lance Somoza, a professional IT Consultant with over 15 years of industry experience and an obsession for technology. This is my tech soapbox.

Jeremy Horwitz for Venturebeat on Apple’s CES presence:

My position: Apple’s 2009 withdrawal from trade shows may have been justifiable back then, but the overall impact has been negative. Additionally, Apple’s related decision to move most of its product launches to a single quarter each year has damaged the brand, despite the strength of Apple’s sales and stock. However, unless certain highly improbable changes are made at CES, this particular trade show is not the right venue for Apple. Instead, the company should leverage its incredible retail infrastructure to do something different.

Not sure how it has damaged the brand, specifically. He goes on to address Apple’s ‘boring calendar’:

On a highly related note, Apple never formally said that it was going to stop staggering major new product releases across the year, but that’s effectively what happened: Since Tim Cook took over, Apple has announced almost nothing of significance until WWDC in June, and the vast majority of new products are released during a narrow window from mid-September to early November.

And:

Some people have suggested that fewer events are the natural result of maturing products — version 1 deserves a splashy event whenever, but no one will care to show up for the “special” debut of a slightly slimmer version 2, or a waterproof version 3, which could arrive via press release. That’s Apple’s problem to remedy, partially with more breakthrough products, and partially with developer engagement and marketing to show how seemingly small changes — say, adding a game controller and games to the Apple TV — could disrupt an entire industry.

Alright, here we go. Products are ready when they are ready, even if they are delayed (e.g. Apple Watch, AirPods, HomePod). Furthermore, Apple isn’t the same company it was ten years ago, where they could release more throughout the year at a much smaller scale. Everything they make now has to be produced in massive quantities. Care and precision is key and extremely difficult, as we’re seeing by delayed products.

Jeremy’s proposal on changing things up:

Perhaps Apple’s “goodbye, Macworld” press release had the best idea of them all: Since Apple’s retail stores see millions of visits per week, why not bring them all together once or twice a year for global-scale special events?

Live from Apple Park’s Steve Jobs Theater, the company could simultaneously broadcast a keynote to all of its retail stores, complete with a window of limited hands-on time with new products for press and customers. Imagine the lines and the local media coverage; they would be off the charts, and diversify the voices offering perspectives on new Apple products.

The full list of reasons why this would never happen is a big one, so I’ll cut it down to a top few:

  1. Apple would never allow just anyone who shows up to have hands-on time with unreleased products, whether they be hardware or software. It’s a huge part of their M.O. — one that I don’t see ever changing. Allowing first-look experiences for YouTubers in a controlled environment is as close as we’ll ever get to this idea.
  2. Just imagine the damning press and social media calamity if someone were to record a device failing, malfunctioning, or worse.
  3. Having these events would send a confusing message to the uninitiated, perhaps encouraging the idea that all announced products will be available for purchase immediately following the keynote.
  4. Shutting down a large portion of the store, if not all for approximately two hours is a terrible idea for the world’s top retailer in sales per square foot.

Apple doesn’t need to be at CES and they don’t need streamed events to their own stores. Here’s what they really need to do:

  1. Keep making exceptional products.

That’s it. There are definitely areas of improvement that will get them there, such as:

  1. Making better hardware for pros. This includes fixing the host of concerns with MacBook Pros. They are already on the right track with iMac Pro, to be followed by a new Mac Pro.
  2. Dialing in the supply chain for increasingly-complex components. Notice how fast iPhone X caught up with demand? Good sign of improvement, wouldn’t you say?
  3. Increasing software Q.A. efforts to cut down on bugs and security holes.

As long as Apple continues to focus on making the best products for their customers, something tells me they’ll be alright with skipping a trade show.


Joe Rossignol for MacRumors:

A bug report submitted on Open Radar this week reveals a security vulnerability in the current version of macOS High Sierra that allows the App Store menu in System Preferences to be unlocked with any password.

And:

As mentioned in the radar, System Preferences does not accept an incorrect password with a non-administrator account. We also weren’t able to unlock any other System Preferences menus with an incorrect password.

We’re unable to reproduce the issue on the third or fourth betas of macOS High Sierra 10.13.3, suggesting Apple has fixed the security vulnerability in the upcoming release. However, the update currently remains in testing.

Apple has really been dropping the ball with these breaches lately. Though App Store preferences are not as concerning as say, access to the whole system, the reality is still unacceptable.


I love AirPods, as you may be able to glean from my official review. They are a product everyone expected Apple to make, but their astounding quality and value took everyone by surprise (yours truly included). So much so that Apple can’t make them fast enough, being virtually out of stock since launching in December 2016. Shipping time was finally down to a few days recently, only to be pushed out again do to the holiday shopping season. Suffice it to say, AirPods have been a massive sleeper hit.

I’m still blown away by how amazing these little things are. That said, here’s how I think Apple can iterate for AirPods 2.

Little Things

New W-series chip

AirPods have great Bluetooth connectivity and battery life, but Apple has room for gains here. The current AirPods introduced the W1 chip — Apple’s own wireless silicon for their custom Bluetooth stack. A second generation W2 chip has already found its way into Apple Watch Series 3, but it handles both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi for the device. Perhaps we’ll see a W2X or W3 chip customized for new AirPods.

“Hey Siri” support

I’m surprised this wasn’t baked in with the current AirPods, but perhaps it’s a battery thing. I think this would be far more elegant than double-tapping the pod itself. It would enable for faster track control, as well (i.e. play/pause, volume, previous/next).

Better volume control

This is probably the biggest complaint I’ve heard about AirPods, aside from fit issues. If you have an Apple Watch, this is less of a problem, as you can control volume from your wrist. Other methods include adjusting from iPhone or double-tapping and asking Siri (both slow).

Here’s the setup I’d like to see:

  • Default: double-tap for Volume Down, triple-tap for Volume Up.
  • Options to change double-tap and triple-tap to Previous Track/Next Track.
  • Option to enable double-tap for Siri.

This would be one setting across both AirPods (as opposed to the current per-AirPod setup). This way, you get the same experience if you’re wearing only one AirPod at a time (either one). Triple taps would would necessitate the need for an upgraded accelerometer, so add that to the list.

Improved sound

AirPods sound plainly good, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Current peak volume, mids, and highs are respectable for their small size. Bass is another story. You probably wouldn’t want AirPods specifically for bass-heavy music, but for better bass, you need to move a lot of air. And to move a lot of air, you need a larger device. AirPods aren’t going to get bigger, so we’ll see if Apple’s killer audio engineering team can work even more magic here.

Fit tweaks

Fun fact: my right AirPod fits better in my right ear than my left. The left is a little loose, but it usually doesn’t fall out unless I’m moving around a lot. That said, maybe Apple can add tiny bumps or padding to allow AirPods to hold onto your ears a little better. Either that, or make two sizes? Something tells me it won’t come to that.

Standard wireless charging case

Apple announced a new wireless charging case for current AirPods to work with their upcoming AirPower mat. No further details have been announced, although its price is rumored to be $69. It must be purchased separately for us existing AirPods owners, but I’m confident Apple will bundle this in with AirPods 2.

New colors

This is a wildcard. I feel like they may leave colored accessories to the Beats line so as to retain their iconic ‘Apple White’ look. Either way, I’d love to see AirPods available in these staples:

  • Space Gray
  • Gold 1
  • Product (RED) 2

Better Device Switching

This is my biggest complaint with AirPods. I have a problem a few Apple devices, and switching my AirPods from one to the other has become a huge chore for the past six months or so. I don’t know if it was an AirPods firmware update, iOS 11 update, or a combination of both that caused it, but they are definitely slower at switching between devices than when they first came out.

While writing this, my AirPods are connected to my iPad Pro, despite Control Center not reflecting as such (see video below). Yay, bugs! Anyway, I just switched my AirPods continuously through three devices: my iPad Pro, iPhone X, and iPhone 7 I use for work. Every time I switched, it took about 10 seconds for AirPods to connect. Not terrible, but it absolutely doesn’t happen that fast every time. It seems to be more of an issue when using one AirPod at a time, or if each AirPod was independently connected to different devices last and you’re trying to switch one of them. I don’t know what it is, but it needs to be fixed for those of us with multiple devices.

I will also get an endless ‘loading indicator of doom’ far too often when switching.

AirPods connect successfully, but Control Center gets stuck on ‘iPad.’ Bad Control Center, bad.

Better Auto Sensing

Ever had this happen while lying down in bed?

  1. Pop AirPods in.
  2. Wait for the ‘connected’ confirmation sound like a dummy.
  3. Sit up or move your head around like a mad man until they finally auto-connect.

In other words, AirPods only auto sense your ears if you are mostly vertical. This needs to be improved for us loungers. A combination of upgraded sensors and firmware should do the trick.

Band Equalizer

This is tangentially related, but Come. On. As I’ve ranted about before, we still don’t have a real EQ on iOS. This just cannot stand anymore. Apple the music company needs to deliver. And don’t give us that BS about an EQ having an impact on battery life.

Launch

So that’s about it. If I had go guess as to when second generation AirPods would surface, I’d say Fall 2018. Apple’s Fall event is typically when they make music-related announcements, and pairing AirPods with the typical Apple Watch refresh timeframe makes sense. After all, the current model was announced around this time for an October launch (then postponed to December).


  1. R.I.P. Rose Gold. There’s a new Gold in town. ↩︎

  2. Please, Apple? ↩︎


Cabel Sasser on the Panic Blog:

Transmit for iOS always felt like an obvious addition to our lineup, but we never thought it made a ton of sense in the tightly-restricted world of iOS until Apple announced the “Share Sheet” for iOS 8. Finally, we thought, in addition to using Transmit iOS to upload/download whatever you need, you could easily (?) get data out of apps and send it to your favorite servers. So, in 2014, we built it!

On lack of sustainability:

Transmit iOS made about $35k in revenue in the last year, representing a minuscule fraction of our overall 2017 app revenue. That’s not enough to cover even a half-time developer working on the app. And the app needs full-time work […]

On the future of iPad productivity apps:

My optimistic take: we hope that as iOS matures, and more and more pro users begin to seriously consider the iPad as a legitimate part of their daily work routines, Transmit iOS can one day return and triumph like it does on the Mac.

The idea of this needing to happen really sucks, but it’s not Panic’s fault. Apple has only recently begun to capitalize on the form factor and power of iPad. The latest iPad Pro models in conjunction with iOS 11 are huge stepping stones for real productivity when it comes to the tablet as a form factor. As I’ve said before, I use mine to wholly write and publish this blog.

I have been a long-time user of Transmit on iOS, and while it won’t disappear if you already bought it, it’s sad to see development and sales end. I really wish they could have stuck it out longer, as I think iPad is going to have its watershed moment for productivity in the next two years (perhaps with the adoption of an iPhone X-esque edge-to-edge screen, TrueDepth Camera, and Face ID).


Apple today released a statement formally addressing their practice of throttling iPhone performance based on aging batteries. Here are the highlights.

First and foremost, we have never — and would never — do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.

They then go into a great detail explaining the chemistry of batteries themselves:

A chemically aged battery also becomes less capable of delivering peak energy loads, especially in a low state of charge, which may result in a device unexpectedly shutting itself down in some situations.

It should go without saying that we think sudden, unexpected shutdowns are unacceptable. We don’t want any of our users to lose a call, miss taking a picture or have any other part of their iPhone experience interrupted if we can avoid it.

On preventing unexpected shutdowns:

About a year ago in iOS 10.2.1, we delivered a software update that improves power management during peak workloads to avoid unexpected shutdowns on iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE. With the update, iOS dynamically manages the maximum performance of some system components when needed to prevent a shutdown. While these changes may go unnoticed, in some cases users may experience longer launch times for apps and other reductions in performance.

Over the course of this fall, we began to receive feedback from some users who were seeing slower performance in certain situations. Based on our experience, we initially thought this was due to a combination of two factors: a normal, temporary performance impact when upgrading the operating system as iPhone installs new software and updates apps, and minor bugs in the initial release which have since been fixed.

A case of ‘heart in the right place’, but severely lacking in execution.

Here’s the good stuff:

  • Apple is reducing the price of an out-of-warranty iPhone battery replacement by $50 — from $79 to $29 — for anyone with an iPhone 6 or later whose battery needs to be replaced, starting in late January and available worldwide through December 2018. Details will be provided soon on apple.com.
  • Early in 2018, we will issue an iOS software update with new features that give users more visibility into the health of their iPhone’s battery, so they can see for themselves if its condition is affecting performance.
  • As always, our team is working on ways to make the user experience even better, including improving how we manage performance and avoid unexpected shutdowns as batteries age.

Apple really nailed this apology/explainer/discount. They explained the issue, chemistry, and rationale perfectly, using the most accessible language I’ve ever seen in one of these letters. 1 However, they clearly didn’t think anyone would notice this practice, otherwise they would have seen this shitstorm coming from a mile away. What was it I said not long ago about Internet backlash? Ah yes, it’s swift and damning. This just goes to show nobody can hide anything for long from determined geeks.

I hope their new battery features include a choice like this. Until then, it’s back to hating on the MacBook Pro keyboard I guess?


  1. It feels very human, unlike typical PR mechanical fluff. ↩︎


Jacob Kastrenakes for The Verge:

In emails to The Verge, both companies said they do not employ similar practices with their smartphones. An HTC spokesperson said that designing phones to slow down their processor as their battery ages “is not something we do.” A Motorola spokesperson said, “We do not throttle CPU performance based on older batteries.”

The Verge also reached out to Google, Samsung, LG, and Sony for comment on whether their phone processors are throttled in response to aging batteries. A Sony spokesperson said a response would be delayed by the holidays, and a Samsung spokesperson said the company was looking into it.

Effortless, positive PR for HTC and Motorola, but also Android as a whole. Most people will see this as Android versus Apple, not Apple vs. HTC vs. Motorola vs. LG vs. Samsung, et al.

Though I still don’t agree with how Apple carried out their throttling, I’d take a slowed-down iPhone over an Android device any day. In fact, I’d be curious to compare real life results (read: not quantitative benchmarks) between a throttled iPhone 7 and a comparable Android device.


Apple has been put through the ringer this week on what will hopefully be their last “controversy” of 2017. The charge? Intentionally slowing down aging iPhone models. It turns out there is truth to this old trope, but not for the reason you would think.

Quick Catch-Up

It all started last week when one redditor restored the performance of his iPhone 6S to optimal levels after replacing the battery. 1 The original reddit post was copied to pastebin, but here’s the current thread.

Redditor TeckFire:

I did a Geekbench score, and found I was getting 1466 Single and 2512 Multi. This did not change wether I had low power mode on or off. After changing my battery, I did another test to check if it was just a placebo. Nope. 2526 Single and 4456 Multi. From what I can tell, Apple slows down phones when their battery gets too low, so you can still have a full days charge.

Since then, Apple published this official statement on the matter:

Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers, which includes overall performance and prolonging the life of their devices. Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components.

Last year we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions. We’ve now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future.

Miscalculated Methods

I believe Apple’s intentions were in the right place. There’s no reason to think they weren’t. I believe they always try to put the customer first, which has made them incredibly successful.

That said, any way you spin it, the optics here are terrible. For years, people have speculated about Apple intentionally slowing down older technology when new software updates are released, which has always been refuted with evidence. Admitting the slowing down of old iPhone models for any reason was never going to go over well. In fact, they have already been sued three times since their admission.

This seems like a classic damned if they do/damned if they don’t scenario. If Apple did nothing, the ‘planned obsolescence’ trope moves forward in a different way when you have phones dying at 30% battery for seemingly no reason.

I do question their methods. Apple provides a disclaimer when your battery needs to be serviced, but it is easily missed and hidden away in Settings. They should have made the notice abundantly clear, instead of downplaying it.

Depiction of the disclaimer, hidden away in Settings.
Depiction of the disclaimer, hidden away in Settings.

Problem with Choice

Should Apple have offered this setting change as a choice? Let’s first consider some of their history on the subject.

Apple has always been accused of not giving customers enough choice (especially on iOS). Lack of customization and utility early on spurred the jailbreak movement, creating choice where there was none. The reality nowadays is an abundance of choice; enough to render jailbreaking irrelevant. Does Apple always offer choice when there should be? I wouldn’t say so, but it’s not for nefarious reasons. Although, it can make choice on iOS sometimes feel like an illusion. 2 Here’s an example:

Outside of Apple Music, they haven’t integrated music streaming services with Siri just yet. Obviously, integrating first-party services is much easier and has advantages (e.g. controlling music via Siri on Apple Watch), but writing an API for other services to play music must be a gargantuan task. Just think of all the variables at play (artist, album, track, composer, genre, etc.) among many nuances. I would expect to see Apple open this up as early as iOS 12 — the timing feels right. Suffice it to say, I don’t think they are completely holding out on Spotify, Google Play Music, Pandora, and the others.

One more: twelve years into the platform, you still can’t choose ‘default’ apps on iOS. This is probably a decently-sized task as well, but one I feel should have arrived already.

Now, back to the matter at hand. Offering throttling as an option to the user sounds like a very un-Apple thing to do. Apple would never want its customers to deliberately make such a large trade off, but if they were going to do something about it anyway, why not? In theory, it sounds like the choice would be incredibly inelegant. In fact, I wouldn’t expect them to ask the question as a simple yes/no. I would have liked to see something like this:

  1. Prompt the user about their battery issue and explain the throttling, along with a button to learn more via an option in Settings.
  2. Turn on throttling.
  3. Allow user to turn off throttling in Settings, but prompt them with the original notice every time.

The prompt could be as simple as:

Mockup of how I think Apple could have handled this.
Mockup of how I think Apple could have handled this.

This would have been a simple CYA step that could have avoided a lot of this mess. I think Apple needs to think a bit harder about offering choice in new ways, especially in a day and age where devices last much longer than they used to. We’ll see if there is any course-correction moving forward or if they double down.


  1. As reported by the benchmarking app ‘Geekbench’. ↩︎

  2. As Agent Smith would say. ↩︎


Summary

Dad and I talk Apple Pay Cash, iMac Pro, Lance’s new MacBook Pro keyboard, Net Neutrality, and a special giveaway!

Topics

  • Intro: Brian Setzer’s Christmas Show
  • Apple Pay Cash and Competitors
  • iMac Pro Recap
  • Apple Acquires Shazam
  • Lance’s MacBook Pro gets new keys
  • More thoughts on HomePod
  • FCC Repeals Net Neutrality Rules
  • Mozilla’s misguided ‘Mr. Robot’ plugin
  • Giveaway: Anker PowerCore 13000

Links

How to Listen

Contact/Follow Us


If you’re just joining us, I started an Apple-centric personal tech blog earlier this year called Gaddgict. I have since changed the site’s name to One-Tech Mind, which I feel better exemplifies myself and my aspirations. I also started Fatherboard, the official podcast for One-Tech Mind with my Dad (also technically-minded). We actually have a new episode coming out today, so it’s a perfect time to subscribe.

Approaching the end of the year, I wanted to share with you a few of my top posts, along with a little giveaway to celebrate.

Top Posts

Giveaway

Anker PowerCore 1300
Anker PowerCore 1300

Now for the good part! I’m giving away a really fantastic way to keep your iPhone (and other devices) charged on the go: (1) Anker Powercore 13000. Make sure you enter for a chance to win.

Rules

  • Winner: Randomly selected after Giveaway has ended, up to 1 winner.

  • Requirements for participation:

    • Resident of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia.
    • Follow @OneTechMind on twitter. And hey, if you don’t like my stuff, no hard feelings if you unfollow me later!
    • 18+ years of age (or legal age)

Thanks for reading and good luck!


Kate Conger for Gizmodo:

Mozilla sneaked a browser plugin that promotes Mr. Robot into Firefox—and managed to piss off a bunch of its privacy-conscious users in the process.

The extension, called Looking Glass, is intended to promote an augmented reality game to “further your immersion into the Mr. Robot universe,” according to Mozilla. It was automatically added to Firefox users’ browsers this week with no explanation except the cryptic message, “MY REALITY IS JUST DIFFERENT THAN YOURS,” prompting users to worry on Reddit that they’d been hit with spyware.

Mozilla’a defense of the plugin:

Mozilla justified its decision to include the extension because Mr. Robot promotes user privacy. “The Mr. Robot series centers around the theme of online privacy and security,” the company said in an explanation of the mysterious extension. “One of the 10 guiding principles of Mozilla’s mission is that individuals’ security and privacy on the internet are fundamental and must not be treated as optional. The more people know about what information they are sharing online, the more they can protect their privacy.”

What. The. Actual. Fuck?

This is incredibly wrong on so many levels, all for what I can imagine is a nice paycheck. Mozilla’s cited guiding principle completely contradicts the nature in which this plugin was installed. I can’t fathom how they can be so insanely obtuse. Mozilla, typical bastion of privacy, security, and general do-goodedness, has taken a terribly misguided step here. Asking fans of the show to download the plugin would have been the most sensible way to play this, instead of hiding behind the guise of the alternate reality game itself.

How do companies pull crap like this and think they can get away with it? Internet backlash is swift and damning. I was going to say I’d expect this more from Google than Mozilla, but I don’t think even Google would be so reckless as to try something like this.

Due to the blowback, Mozilla has pledged to move the plugin to its rightful place in the extension store (hey, imagine that). Regardless, they should be embarrassed by this nonsense.