Friday, March 23, 2018

BOFA: Apple to release ‘foldable’ phone in 2020 →

Tae Kim for CNBC:

Bank of America Merrill Lynch said the smartphone maker is working with its Asian partners on a foldable phone.

“We expect the iPhones this fall to be largely unchanged for the OLED versions although size changes have proved to be a catalyst in the past,” analyst Wamsi Mohan wrote in a note to clients Friday. “Our checks also suggest that Apple is working with suppliers on a foldable phone (that potentially could double up as a tablet) for launch in 2020.”

Yeah, okay Bank of America. Two years seems way too soon for this kind of product. Although, I think this could be where we are headed. Instead of reverting back to the old flip phone days, imagine a perfectly normal iPhone that could transform into an iPad mini whenever needed, with negligible bulk. And people harp on Apple’s obsession for thinness … just wait until we reap the rewards.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Gurman: Apple working on developing its own MicroLED screens →

Mark Gurman for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is designing and producing its own device displays for the first time, using a secret manufacturing facility near its California headquarters to make small numbers of the [MicroLED] screens for testing purposes, according to people familiar with the situation.

The technology giant is making a significant investment in the development of next-generation MicroLED screens, say the people, who requested anonymity to discuss internal planning. MicroLED screens use different light-emitting compounds than the current OLED displays and promise to make future gadgets slimmer, brighter and less power-hungry.

The screens are far more difficult to produce than OLED displays, and the company almost killed the project a year or so ago, the people say. Engineers have since been making progress and the technology is now at an advanced stage, they say, though consumers will probably have to wait a few years before seeing the results.

On the facility:

[…] There, about 300 engineers are designing and producing MicroLED screens for use in future products. The facility also has a special area for the intricate process of producing LEDs.

Another facility nearby houses technology that handles so-called LED transfers: the process of placing individual pixels into a MicroLED screen. Apple inherited the intellectual property for that process when it purchased startup LuxVue in 2014.

On the difficulty in making MicroLED screens:

Creating MicroLED screens is extraordinarily complex. Depending on screen size, they can contain millions of individual pixels. Each has three sub-pixels: red, green and blue LEDs. Each of these tiny LEDs must be individually created and calibrated. Each piece comes from what is known as a “donor wafer” and then are mass-transferred to the MicroLED screen.

Apple is clearly determined to be at the forefront of this new display technology. The only other entity known to be working on this as well is — of course — Samsung. Big surprise, right? They even showed off a prototype MicroLED TV earlier this year at CES. As difficult as OLED is to make, MicroLED sounds at least 10 times harder, so we won’t be seeing this for a while.

The display on iPhone X is just mesmerizing, so I can’t wait to see how MicroLED looks. The power efficiency, longer lifespan, and higher brightness features will be very welcome, but I haven’t heard specifically if it will improve upon the other weaknesses of OLED. Namely: image retention, burn-in, and off-axis color shifting. The latter is definitely noticeable, but an acceptable trade off for the time being.

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. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

iPhone date and time bug causing random ‘resprings’ →

Chance Miller for 9to5Mac:

Just days after the huge root security flaw on macOS earlier this week, a growing number of iPhone and iPad users are reporting serious reboot and respring issues. The problem, detailed in a growing Reddit thread and on Twitter, seems to stem from apps that use local notifications, such as reminder applications like Headspace and Calm…

One Reddit user claims to have spoken with a senior Apple representative who informed him that the company is working on a fix.

Just spoke to a senior Apple rep and they too suggested manually setting the date to 1 day before the problem started – this was 1 Dec for me and it worked (I’m on an iPhone X running iOS 11.1.2 (15B202)) – or resetting all settings to default.

They did mention that they’re presently being flooded with calls reporting the same issue and that their ‘Engineering team’ is working on it figuring out what the problem is.

Apple is currently recommending that affected users set their device’s date back by one day. […]

‘Respring’ refers to when iPhone shows a black screen and loading indicator before taking you back to the Lock screen (not an actual reboot). It’s named after SpringBoard, the iOS system that manages the Home screen and applications.

So … what the hell is going on in Cupertino?

Friday, December 1, 2017

The Power of RAW on iPhone →

Sebastiaan de With shared great insight on shooting in RAW mode with iPhone X on the Halide blog today — Halide being a really powerful camera app I highly recommend.

I have always found the task of shooting in RAW and subsequent editing a bit daunting. After reading Sebastiaan’s post, I feel more empowered than ever to give it a real go.

Sebastiaan:

I am the design half of the team that makes the iPhone app Halide, which is a camera app with manual controls and, most importantly, RAW capture.

RAW is a file format that holds an incredible amount of information. We’ll get into the details later, but first let’s show what you can do with it.

From Sebastiaan’s post. Left: a RAW image out of the iPhone X. Right: the image after editing.
From Sebastiaan’s post. Left: a RAW image out of the iPhone X. Right: the image after editing.

RAW affords you editing freedom. Absolute freedom to change the colors and white balance of a photo, or recover too-bright highlights and too-dark shadows.

However, as awesome as RAW is, it’s important to know RAW isn’t a magic “enhance” button. Some of our users sometimes reach out with confusion about their RAW images looking worse than a regular capture from the stock camera app.

Read his full post for a really accessible overview of how RAW files are put together, and what shooting in RAW really means, including important caveats.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

iPhone 8 and iPhone X are primed to usher in wireless CarPlay

Warning: you are entering first world problem territory.

The car I bought earlier this year has Apple CarPlay, and it’s fantastic. If you’re not familiar with the functionality, CarPlay allows your iPhone to display a specially-designed iOS interface on a compatible car’s touchscreen. You can then access a set of stock iOS apps like Phone, Messages, Maps, and Podcasts, etc., along with a few select third-party apps such as Overcast, Tune In Radio, and Spotify. In other words, your car’s touchscreen acts like a secondary display for your phone. It is highly simplistic by nature, but leaps and bounds better than crappy ‘infotainment’ systems and their crappy interfaces.

I love CarPlay mostly for Maps 1, as it displays directions on your car’s screen just like a standalone GPS would. Siri is also super helpful in the car when composing an iMessage or placing a call — the usual stuff.

The only downside of CarPlay is that I have to plug in my phone every time I get in the car. I don’t have the freedom to just start the engine and have it connect automatically like it would if I were using a standard Bluetooth connection that’s been around for years. Sure, it’s nice that the phone also begins charging since it’s plugged in, but unless I’m on a road trip, I would be more than happy with a slower charging rate say via… wireless charging. I think you know where I’m going with this.

You see, Apple launched a wireless implementation of CarPlay in September 2015 along with iOS 9, but it has yet to be widely adopted. [Only a few automakers and/or third-parties support it](https://www.macrumors.com/roundup/carplay/# wireless_carplay). Hell, standard CarPlay is just now seeing larger adoption amongst automakers and third-parties, but I digress. To use wireless CarPlay, your car must meet Apple’s standard CarPlay requirements in addition to having a Wi-Fi radio 2 and appropriate automaker support. And I don’t think I need to tell you how slow automakers are when it comes to adopting this kind of technology.

With the introduction of Qi charging in the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X, I’m hoping we’ll see increased adoption of wireless CarPlay sooner rather than later. Think about it — this setup has the convenience of Bluetooth audio, the huge convenience of CarPlay itself, and the convenience of charging without plugging in a cable. I want to get in the car, rest my iPhone X down on a Qi charging pad (or not) 3, all while having it connect to wireless CarPlay automatically.

Some cars come with Qi chargers built in, so automakers are sort of getting there. Now that iPhone 8 and iPhone X have launched, there’s no better time for Apple to push for rapid adoption.


  1. Yes, Apple Maps. In my experience, it’s on par with Google Maps nowadays. 
  2. Which my Honda does have, so it’s even more frustrating that they haven’t turned on support for this. 
  3. It would have to be grabby or cushioned to ensure the phone stays put. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tim Cook on Augmented Reality pervasiveness and glasses →

TIm Cook sat down with Andrew Griffin from The Independent to talk about Augmented Reality.

On how widespread AR will become:

“Think back to 2008, when the App Store went live. There was the initial round of apps and people looked at them and said, ‘this is not anything, mobile apps are not going to take off’.”

“And then step by step things start to move. And it is sort of a curve, it was just exponential – and now you couldn’t imagine your life without apps. Your health is on one app, your financials, your shopping, your news, your entertainment – it’s everything.”

“AR is like that. It will be that dramatic.”

I think Tim’s right in terms of AR eventually being everywhere — this is the stuff of science fiction! That said, it’s going to take truly transformative experiences for the masses to jump on board. While furniture apps are cool, there’s a possibility they could be seen as the fart apps of AR after a while.

On AR glasses:

“There are rumours and stuff about companies working on those – we obviously don’t talk about what we’re working on.”

“But today I can tell you the technology itself doesn’t exist to do that in a quality way. The display technology required, as well as putting enough stuff around your face – there’s huge challenges with that.”

“The field of view, the quality of the display itself, it’s not there yet,”

That’s a nice way of saying Google Glass without actually saying it. Don’t get me wrong, Glass was pretty cool, but it was nowhere near ready for the masses, and why it has been relegated to factories. True AR glasses (or whatever form they come in) are going to be game changing.

On AirPods/audio as part of the AR experience:

I asked Cook whether he saw Apple’s AirPods – the wireless earphones that also allow their wearer to talk to Siri and hear directions – as a kind of augmented reality technology. He didn’t, but said that he can “envision audio becoming a key part of the AR experience”, referencing a game we had played that was soundtracked by the beautiful and dynamic twinkling of a Japanese rock garden.

I have been saying the AirPods (and Watch) could potentially be part of Apple’s AR strategy. If you notice, Tim’s distinction here is that AirPods are not AR, but that doesn’t mean they can’t still play a role. As for the Watch, I could see it providing motion data for games or possibly used as an input device.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Apple does not intentionally slow down old iPhones →

Futuremark:

Our benchmarking data shows that, rather than intentionally degrading the performance of older models, Apple actually does a good job of supporting its older devices with regular updates that maintain a consistent level of performance across iOS versions.

Check out the nicely-compiled data and graphs. Now can we please finally put the nail in the coffin on this one? I get that it stems from a misunderstanding of technology, but it’s beyond beating a dead horse.