Friday, December 29, 2017

Apple apologizes, explains, and offers discounted $29 battery replacement →

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. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

HTC, Motorola claim to not throttle CPU performance as phone batteries age →

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.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Offering Choice in New Ways

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. 

Monday, December 18, 2017

Fatherboard Episode 008: The Next Oil Industry

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

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Giveaway: Anker PowerCore 1300

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](https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/fatherboard/id1257461893?mt=2&ls=1# episodeGuid=http%3A%2F%2Ffatherboardcast.com%2F%3Fp%3D80), 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!

Mozilla’s sneaky, misguided ‘Mr. Robot’ promo plugin →

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.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Apple’s iMac Pro is a love letter to developers →

Matthew Panzarino for TechCrunch:

The iMac Pro exists because it turns out that there is a lot of air underneath the aging Mac Pro and above the incredibly popular MacBook Pro. A single-digit percentage of Mac customers buy the Mac Pro and, in recent years, Apple had been seeing a major rise in “pro” customers of all shades purchasing iMacs because of their incredible screens, all-in-one form factor and overall ease of deployment.

Ports-a-plenty:

The rear ports are definitely different, of course. You have 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports, which run on two separate controllers, 2 ports each. So you should get blazing speeds on those whether they’re used for e-GPUs or storage or displays. There are 4 USB 3.0 A ports and SD slot and, for the first time ever, a 10 Gigabit ethernet port right on the back.

Configurations:

Not every configuration of the iMac Pro will be available to order today online and in stores next week. You’ll be able to get the 8 and 10-core Intel Xeon W versions of the machine with any other memory, graphics or storage options you like, but the 14 and 18-core editions are just orderable now for delivery in January. Those new core configurations are previously unannounced options. Each has 1MB of L2 and 1.365MB of L3 cache.

This thing sounds incredible. I’d love to have one, but it’s way beyond me. It should be a nice stopgap while developers seeking even more power (or a purely standalone Mac) await the completely-redesigned Mac Pro. I bet the space grey accessories will go for a pretty penny on eBay since you can’t buy them separately.

Friday, December 8, 2017

TechCrunch: Apple to acquire Shazam →

Ingrid Lunden and Katie Roof for TechCrunch:

As Spotify continues to inch towards a public listing, Apple is making a move of its own to step up its game in music services. Sources tell us that the company is close to acquiring Shazam, the popular app that lets people identify any song, TV show, film or advert in seconds, by listening to an audio clip or (in the case of, say, an ad) a visual fragment, and then takes you to content relevant to that search.

We have heard that the deal is being signed this week, and will be announced on Monday, although that could always change.

One source describes the deal as in the nine figures; another puts it at around £300 million ($401 million). We are still asking around. Notably, though, the numbers we’ve heard are lower than the $1.02 billion (according to PitchBook) post-money valuation the company had in its last funding round, in 2015.

Obvious Apple Music and Siri benefits aside, Apple must be really impressed with Shazam’s underlying technology to make this purchase. I’ve never seen anyone use Shazam on a TV show or in any capacity other than identifying music, but there could be some real benefits to tried and tested audio recognition down the line (e.g. AR, advanced Siri functions, HomePod).

Jony Ive resumes direct management of Apple Design team →

Juli Clover for MacRumors:

Apple Chief Design Officer Jony Ive is once again taking over management of the design team at Apple according to changes made to Apple’s official “Apple Leadership” website.

The site was updated this morning to remove the profiles of Richard Howarth and Alan Dye, who were managing the day-to-day operations at Apple while Ive oversaw all of Apple’s design projects, and Bloomberg has confirmed that Ive is once again in direct control of the team as shared by Mark Gurman.

Ive first stepped back from day-to-day management of Apple’s design teams in 2015, when he took on the role of “Chief Design Officer.” Alan Dye and Richard Howarth were elevated to vice president positions at that time, with Howarth responsible for industrial design and Dye responsible for user interface design.

There is one of two stories here. Either Apple is executing a plan long in the making now that Jony is done with the new campus and retail makeover (most likely), or this is a reactive measure to something bigger.

In the case for something bigger: Apple makes polarizing decisions, but none have been more divisive than ones introduced in the past few years (largely dealing with MacBook), such as:

  1. MacBook Pro Touch Bar
  2. MacBook Pro butterfly keys 1
  3. MacBook: Lack of ports (only USB-C)
  4. iPhone X: the TrueDepth camera notch

Although Jony has no doubt been engaged with all these hardware and software design changes, his attention has absolutely been elsewhere. Also, let’s not get software design confused with software engineering — a sensitive area for Apple as of late with multiple widespread bugs. We can argue the software design of Apple’s systems all day, but the area needing more attention right now is hardware design.

Either way, I’m more interested to see what exactly has happened to Alan Dye and Richard Howarth.

Updated on 12/8 at 1:26 PM:

Bloomberg’s piece includes this predictable statement from Apple:

“With the completion of Apple Park, Apple’s design leaders and teams are again reporting directly to Jony Ive, who remains focused purely on design,” Amy Bessette, a company spokeswoman, said Friday in a statement.


  1. Finally took my 2016 MacBook Pro in to the Apple Store this past week for the ‘sticky’ keys problem. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Apple Pay Cash slowly rolls out →

Updated 12/5 at 11:00 AM Pacific: Apple confirms Apple Pay Cash is officially available.

Updated 12/5 at 1:30 PM Pacific: watchOS 4.2 for Apple Watch is now available with Apple Pay Cash support.

Chaim Gartenberg for The Verge:

Apple was forced to release iOS 11.2 on Saturday, which was a little earlier than planned, due to a software bug. Now, Apple Pay Cash — one of the marquee features of the update — is being activated for users.

Apple Pay Cash lets users send and receive money directly though iMessages, similar to Venmo or Square Cash. Money that people send you will live on a digital Apple Pay Cash card in the Wallet app, which users can spend anywhere that Apple Pay is accepted, or send to other people. (The new feature is only available in the US for now, though.)

Nice to see this finally launch (if in a weird way), after being delayed from the original iOS 11 release.

The setting to activate Apple Pay Cash seems to be rolling out slowly, as mine didn’t appear until about 7pm Pacific. To check if it’s active for you, go to Settings > Wallet & Apple Pay. Once set up, you’ll find your Apple Pay Cash card inside the Wallet app (along with a cool shimmering animation when you tilt your phone). As you can see in the featured image above, you can send and receive cash in Messages via the Cash app in the app drawer. 1 My Dad … graciously helped me test this important new feature.

This really demonstrates what a trojan horse the Messages app has become (in a good way). Don’t underestimate how important iMessage is to Apple. It’s one of the main reasons people love iPhone, and it keeps them locked into the Apple ecosystem.

It won’t be too long before iOS users relegate Venmo/Square Cash/PayPal to payment methods only for cross-platform because of Apple Pay Cash being baked in.


  1. That was a mouthful.