October 2, 2014

My name is Rick Smolan and I’m a former Time, Life, and National Geographic photojournalist. When I was twenty-eight, National Geographic Magazine sent me on the assignment of a lifetime: to document the 1,700 mile journey of a mysterious twenty-seven-year-old woman named Robyn Davidson, who was trekking across the Australian outback alone with four camels and her dog, Diggity. During Robyn’s nine-month journey I tracked her down five times, spending about three months traveling with her and shooting tens of thousands of photographs.

What an amazing book this will be.

Yosemite is a conference for Apple developers, designers, and enthusiasts. It will be held next Spring, in the heart of Yosemite National Park.

Dave Klein and the folks at CocoaConf are putting on a great conference in 2015 in Yosemite. I will be speaking at the conference, along with many very talented people in the Mac and iOS communities.

Getting ready to buy a used iPhone or iPad? Ask the seller for the device’s IMEI or serial number, then go to this page. It’ll tell you the activation lock status.

If the seller needs help finding the IMEI, send them to Apple’s IMEI support page.

Worth a read, even if you already know most of these.

One quibble, though.

Sometimes you don’t want the stripped-down mobile version of a website. Google’s Chrome has long had a “request desktop version” option, and now Safari does also.

To access this, give a gentle pull down on the menubar to see two new choices: Add to Favorites and Request Desktop Site. Tap the latter and the page will reformat, usually presenting itself in desktop glory.

I believe you need to tap in the menubar so you are editing the URL, which will bring up the favorites popup. Tap in the favorites popup and drag down to reveal the Add to Favorites and Request Desktop Site choices.

Other than that minor point, this is good to know.

ZDNet (via 9to5mac):

Kim Ki-nam, president of the Korean electronic giant’s semiconductor business and head of System LSI business, told reporters at Samsung’s headquarters in Seoul that once the company begins to supply Apple with chips using its latest technology, profits “will improve positively”.

Samsung produces about 30% of Apple’s A8 chips (the majority are made by Taiwan’s TSMC).

Sources told ZDNet Korea that Samsung already has a contract in place with Apple to produce the A8′s successor, tentatively named the A9, which will be made using the 14-nanometre process.

Samsung says their 14nm FinFET process will be ramping up by the end of the year. The A8 is a 20nm chip, so 14nm is a big leap in miniaturization. Samsung’s 28nm process was used to produce the A7, and the A6 was produced using a 32nm process.

Samsung’s chip business was clearly hurt by Apple’s shift toward TSMC. Why shift back to Samsung?

Meanwhile, TSMC, the world’s largest contract chip maker, is expected to produce its next-generation chip using a 16-nanometre process.

14 < 16. Size matters.

October 1, 2014

The Atlantic:

Free samples help consumers learn more about products, and they make retail environments more appealing. But samples are operating on a more subconscious level as well.

“Reciprocity is a very, very strong instinct,” says Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at Duke University. “If somebody does something for you”—such as giving you a quarter of a ravioli on a piece of wax paper—“you really feel a rather surprisingly strong obligation to do something back for them.”

Am I weird because I’ve never taken a free food sample in a grocery store? I just find the whole idea strange. For those of you outside the USA or Canada, is this “free samples in grocery stores” a thing in other countries, too?

Vogue:

The secret weapon of the most sought-after personal-electronics company in the world is a very nice guy from Northeast London who has a soft spot for woodworking and the sense that designers ought to keep their design talents backstage where they can do the most good. “There’s an odd irony here,” he observes. “I think our goal is that you would have a sense that it wasn’t design.”

Always interesting to read about Ive.

The Guardian:

The US government and police officials are in the midst of a misleading PR offensive to try to scare Americans into believing encrypted cellphones are somehow a bad thing, rather than a huge victory for everyone’s privacy and security in a post-Snowden era.

I understand the government’s position but, with all the evidence of the authorities spying on us in any number of ways, they have no one to blame but themselves for average citizens looking for ways to protect themselves from their government.

Nice essay from Ken Segall (long time creative director who worked on the Think Different campaign, came up with the iMac name) about the fallout from Bendgate.

To me, the story isn’t that Apple created a sub-standard product. Because it didn’t.

The real story is that all these people were so quick to believe that Apple had screwed up in such a monumental way — and then joyfully helped blast this “news” into the public consciousness.

You know the story, watched it play out over the last few days. Will it impact iPhone 6 sales?

If you’re familiar with this blog, you’ve probably heard me talk about the importance Steve Jobs placed on getting customers to love Apple. He wanted every part of the customer experience to strengthen that love — from the advertising and in-store experience to unboxing, enjoying the product and getting support when needed.

By doing so, he would ensure that customers would (a) buy more stuff, (b) evangelize to others and (c) stick with Apple when unforeseen problems arise. He understood that such things were inevitable, even for a company like Apple.

History proves that Steve was 100% correct. Despite the intense media blasting, Apple customers did not defect because of Antennagate or Mapsgate. It’s pretty obvious that there will be even less damage from Bendgate.

This rings true. If Bendgate accomplished anything, it was to raise awareness of the iPhone 6 Plus. Apple’s brand has tremendous critical mass. Like a massive mountain range, it would take great force, sustained over a long period of time, to cause any lasting damage.

Big thanks to long time Loop reader Patrick Crowley for pulling together this fantastic collection of images from yesterday’s Apple Watch event at the Colette boutique on Rue Saint Honoré as part of Fashion Week.

The images were all taken with Patrick’s brand new iPhone 6. Thanks, Patrick. Great job.

Jimmy Fallon and Robert Plant sing an awesome iPad duet

Back in March, Billy Joel came on the Tonight Show to take Jimmy Fallon’s iPad for an incredible ride with just a brilliant duet.

Now it’s Robert Plant‘s turn. The only thing that could have made this better is if they launched into Babe I’m Gonna Leave You. Now that would have been something to see.

September 30, 2014

Yesterday we reported that Samsung’s earlier-than-planned September 26th launch of its new Galaxy Note 4 had been met with complaints from customers regarding a ‘screen gap’ manufacturing issue. Today, a reference in Samsung’s Note 4 manual has been discovered confirm that the gap is actually a feature, not a flaw.

This issue doesn’t take anyone sneaking into a store and forcibly bending a phone, it’s an actual manufacturing flaw, but yet the mainstream press let’s them get away with it.

This is what Samsung says about the gap:

A small gap appears around the outside of the device case… This gap is a necessary manufacturing feature and some minor rocking or vibration of parts may occur… Over time, friction between parts may cause this gap to expand slightly.

What the holy fuck! Seriously?

A Blog To Watch:

After some hands-on time with the Apple Watch, I’ve learned a few things. Perhaps the most important of which is that the majority of discussions regarding the Apple Watch by the traditional watch media have been rather misguided. I feel that people need to understand that the Apple Watch is not only a new type of product for Apple, but the first real “cross-over watch” that wades in both the waters of technology and horology. For a moment, I’d like people to put aside their criticisms and complaints, and consider what I believe to be a future inevitability: the dominance of the smartwatch as a necessary tool in the everyday lives of everyday people.

The post is too long to lay it all out here, just go read it. But this part made me laugh for some reason:

Can you type into the Apple Watch or is there a keyboard? That is a good question, and the answer is no. The Apple Watch employs Apple’s Siri function, which is a powerful voice recognition system that allows you to operate many of the Apple Watch’s features just by talking to it – we have also seen voice activation incorporated into Android Wear, Google’s operating system that is tailored specifically for wearable devices. The Apple Watch also has a speaker built into it (in addition to the microphone). So speaking naturally to your wrist is going to be a lot more common in the coming years. This means that you can have a phone call with your Apple Watch, if you choose, and you can also listen to messages or watch videos on it.

Dick Tracy! Specifically, Dick Tracy in this picture.

Terrific post, clearly written by someone with a deep understanding of this space. (via DF)

UPDATE: Here’s a link to a podcast interview with the author of the post, Ariel Adams.

New York Times:

EBay said on Tuesday that it would spin off its PayPal payments unit into a separate publicly traded company, taking a step the activist hedge fund magnate Carl C. Icahn first demanded nine months ago.

The move will cleave eBay almost in half, separating it from the payments processor it acquired 12 years ago and built into a giant that generates almost half of the company’s revenue.

The spinoff is expected to be completed in the second half of 2015. John Donahoe, eBay’s current chief executive, will step down from that role once the separation is complete.

Presumably, this will leave PayPal more nimble as it prepares to deal with the coming rollout of Apple Pay.

On Apple’s Irish tax issue

A few days ago, an article appeared in the Financial Times (paywall) alluding to a ruling by the European Commission that Apple benefited from a favorable Irish tax rate:

Apple will be accused of prospering from illegal tax deals with the Irish government for more than two decades when Brussels this week unveils details of a probe that could leave the iPhone maker with a record fine of as much as several billions of euros.

Today, the PDF of the ruling itself was posted. If you really want to understand the nature of the European Commission’s ruling, this document is the place to go. It is well-written (though slightly redacted) and makes its case, step-by-step.

Two key points from the document. First, from section 58:

The fact that the methods used to determine profit allocation to ASI and AOE result from a negotiation rather than a pricing methodology, reinforces the idea that the outcome of the agreed method is not arm’s length and that a prudent independent market operator would not have accepted the remuneration allocated to the branches of ASI and AOE in the same situation, which serve as a basis for calculating the tax liability.

ASI is Apple Sales International and AOE is Apple Operations Europe. Both are wholly owned subsidiaries of Apple, Inc.

In my opinion, the paragraph above is basically saying that Apple negotiated a favorable tax deal as opposed to accepting more traditional terms. The framework of the entire document lays out all the details but, to me, this is the heart of the matter.

Then, at the end of the document, comes the decision:

In the light of the foregoing considerations, the Commission’s preliminary view is that the tax ruling of 1990 (effectively agreed in 1991) and of 2007 in favour of the Apple group constitute State aid according to Article 107(1) TFEU. The Commission has doubts about the compatibility of such State aid with the internal market. The Commission has therefore decided to initiate the procedure laid down in Article 108(2) TFEU with respect to the measures in question.

Article 108(2) TFEU refers to a section of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) which lays out the rules for adjudicating matters like this. Here’s a reader-friendly version of the TFEU.

Next step is, in effect, an audit. The EC is requesting comments from Ireland as well as all relevant tax-related documents. Those are due in a month.

From the Financial Times article:

Apple, which has operated in Ireland since 1980, maintains that its agreements with Ireland did not break any laws. “There’s never been any special deal, there’s never been anything that would be construed as state aid,” Luca Maestri, Apple’s chief financial officer, told the Financial Times.

“We were simply trying to understand what was the right amount of taxes that we would have to pay in Ireland,” Mr Maestri said of the agreements, describing Apple’s approach as “very responsible, transparent and prudent”.

Apple’s official statement (via Business Insider):

Apple is proud of its long history in Ireland and the 4,000 people we employ in Cork. They serve our customers through manufacturing, tech support and other important functions. Our success in Europe and around the world is the result of hard work and innovation by our employees, not any special arrangements with the government. Apple has received no selective treatment from Irish officials over the years. We’re subject to the same tax laws as the countless other companies who do business in Ireland.

Since the iPhone launched in 2007, our tax payments in Ireland and around the world have increased tenfold. To continue that growth and the benefits it brings to the communities where we work and live, we believe comprehensive corporate tax reform is badly needed.”

Both models have cleared all regulatory hurdles and will be available for pre-order on October 10th and in Chinese Apple Stores on October 17th.

From Apple’s press release:

Apple® today announced that iPhone® 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, the biggest advancements in iPhone history, will be available in China beginning Friday, October 17 from the Apple Online Store (www.apple.com), Apple’s retail stores, and an expansive network of retail stores through all three major carriers and Apple Authorized Resellers. With support for TD-LTE and FDD-LTE, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus provide customers access to 4G/LTE networks from China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom across mainland China. Customers can pre-order iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus from the Apple Online Store beginning Friday, October 10. Beginning Tuesday, October 14, customers can reserve the new iPhones for in-store pick-up starting Friday, October 17.

“We are thrilled to bring iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus to our customers in China on all three carriers at launch,” said Apple’s CEO Tim Cook. “With support for TD-LTE and FDD-LTE, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus customers will have access to high-speed mobile networks from China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom for an incredible experience.”

As to pricing:

iPhone 6 comes in gold, silver or space gray, and is available in China for a suggested retail price of 5,288 (RMB) for the 16GB model, 6,088 (RMB) for the 64GB model and, for the first time, a new 128GB model for 6,888 (RMB). iPhone 6 Plus comes in gold, silver or space gray, and is available in China for a suggested retail price of 6,088 (RMB) for the 16GB model, 6,888 (RMB) for the 64GB model and 7,788 (RMB) for the new 128GB model.

September 29, 2014

In the wake of the uproar that followed last week’s purported iPhone 6 Plus pliability problem, some people have apparently taken it upon themselves to go into Apple Stores and bend iPhones. And while it pains us that this even needs to be said, guys, please: Breaking private property doesn’t prove anything. Except that you’re an asshole.

That sums it up for me.

Music video animation makes its way across multiple iPads and iPhones

This is an incredibly creative video for the song Knock Knock, by Brunettes Shoot Blondes. I would love to know how they made this.

Tales of China’s iPhone 6 black market

First things first, is the sale of smuggled iPhones in China a black market or a grey market? From Wikipedia’s black market page:

A black market or underground economy is the market in which goods or services are traded illegally. The key distinction of a black market trade is that the transaction itself is illegal. The goods or services may or may not themselves be illegal to own, or to trade through other, legal channels. Because the transactions are illegal, the market itself is forced to operate outside the formal economy, supported by the established state power.

Since China has not yet approved the sale of the iPhone 6, I’d say the current sales make up a black market.

That aside, the coverage of the smuggled goods paint a picture worthy of a James Bond film. From last week’s WSJ:

Hong Kong authorities said Sunday that they foiled an apparent attempt to smuggle 3 million Hong Kong dollars ($387,000) worth of high-end electronics—including at least 138 new iPhones—that were being loaded onto a speedboat in a rural coastal area opposite the Chinese shore. Customs officials said several men fled on the boat when approached by law-enforcement officers, leaving behind 15 boxes that also included 1,890 hard drives and 16,235 computer-memory chips.

This from Friday’s LA Times:

The new iPhones have been smuggled into mainland China in paper containers for cream pies and toothpaste, coffee and tea boxes; one man was even caught carrying eight devices in his underwear.

Fascinating.

Jean-Louis Gassée on the coming teardown of BlackBerry’s corporate assets, as well as the mistakes that cost them the game.

Back in January, 2007:

Ahead of me, behind me, and on down the line, everyone held a BlackBerry, checking email and BBM messages, wearing a serious but professional frown. The BlackBerry was the de rigueur smartphone for bankers, lawyers, accountants, and anyone else who, like me, wanted to be seen as a four-star businessperson.

Five days later, on January 9th, Steve Jobs walked on stage holding an iPhone and the era of the BlackBerry, the Starbucks of smartphones, would soon be over. Even if it took three years for BlackBerry sales to start their plunge, the iPhone introduction truly was a turning point In BlackBerry’s life.

The key problem for BlackBerry was not recognizing that the rules for smart phones had changed until it was too late to make the investment required to build a sustainable foundation.

It wasn’t until 2010 that RIM acquired QNX, a “Unix-ish” operating system that was first shipped in 1982 by Quantum Software Systems, founded by two Waterloo University students. Why did Lazaridis’ company take three years to act on the sharp, accurate recognition of its software problem? Three years were lost in attempts to tweak the old software engine, and in fights between Keyboard Forever! traditionalists and would-be adopters of a touch interface.

Adapting BlackBerry’s applications to QNX was more complicated than just fitting a new software engine into RIM’s product line. To start with, QNX didn’t have the thick layer of frameworks developers depend on to write their applications. These frameworks, which make up most of the 700 megabytes Lazaridis saw in the iPhone’s software engine, had to be rebuilt on top of a system that was well-respected in the real-time automotive, medical, and entertainment segment, but that was ill-suited for “normal” use.

Great read.

Kirk McElhearn, writing for MacWorld, makes the case that though Apple Pay will certainly be a big deal in the US, it won’t have the same disruption potential in Europe.

That’s because, in Europe, credit and debit cards are based on a chip-and-PIN (personal identification number) system, rather than the swipe-and-sign system more common in the U.S. Chip-and-PIN cards use an embedded chip, rather than a magnetic strip, to encode your identity data. And they rely on your entering a four-digit personal identification number, rather than just signing your name or swiping the card through a reader, to endorse a transaction.

Because of this chip-and-PIN technology—first used in France more than 20 years ago, and widely used for more than a decade in other countries on the continent—fraud is substantially lower in Europe than it is in the United States, where it cost $5.3 billion in 2013.

Solid premise, though I suspect that if Apple Pay gains enough traction in the US, the desire for tourist dollars and compatibility with US payment mechanisms (phones/watches/etc) will provide the force needed to cross that chasm.

September 28, 2014

New York Magazine:

Though it has been open for less than a decade, the Apple store under the glass cube at the base GM building is already one of the best-known and most successful retail sites in the world.

But few people realize that it exists because of a real estate developer who had just taken the biggest gamble of his life, and needed to solve a problem — and because he knew just how to play mind games with Steve Jobs.

I still remember meeting Steve Jobs in New York on Fifth Avenue in 1999 after a Macworld Expo. He and his lovely wife were just standing on the street looking across it and talking. I walked up and introduced myself and we chatted for a few minutes.

It wasn’t until years later I realized they had been standing opposite what would eventually become the Fifth Ave Cube and Jobs was scouting the location.

In a nutshell, if you are running iOS 8, go to Settings > General > Usage > Battery Usage. Betcha your number one battery drainer is a game. Just a guess.

September 27, 2014

Consumer Reports:

Bear in mind that it took significant force to do this kind of damage to all these phones. While nothing is (evidentally) indestructible, we expect that any of these phones should stand up to typical use.

Much ado about nothing.

Nice writeup from AppleInsider focuses on the controversy itself, how it ultimately benefits Apple and injures the companies that have tried to take advantage of it.

On the video that started it all:

The man in the infamous video has large hands that make the expansive iPhone 6 Plus look both reasonably sized and remarkably thin. As he flexes the device from both ends with enough pressure to drive the blood out of his thumbs and inflame his fingertips, his pre-bent iPhone bends even more. Who would have guessed that were possible?

Observers on Reddit were quick to call attention to the editing of the video, which supposedly portrays the phone as being bent in one sitting but actually shows the clock jumping back and forth, resulting in a contrived timeline that raises more questions than simply “can one destroy expensive gear?”

All this attention ultimately brings the focus of attention exactly where Apple wants it:

BendGate is specifically directing the attention of millions of people (36 million views so far on YouTube, paired with mentions in every newspaper and on every local TV newscast) on the exact feature Apple wants to promote about its latest iPhone models: their larger screen size and thinner body that makes them still quite easy to use with one hand. That’s a level of incessant, mainstream promotion that would be difficult to orchestrate and bankroll, even for Apple.

There’s a lot more. Good stuff.

September 26, 2014

TidBITS:

The disclosure this week of a major bug in a common Unix tool set of an earthquake in the security community. Not only was nearly every version of Unix vulnerable, including Linux and OS X, but most of the initial patches are not completely effective at blocking the hole. It’s a near-worst-case scenario where we have a piece of software on nearly every non-Windows server on the Internet — and plenty of personal computers (thanks to Apple’s market growth) — that is vulnerable to multiple kinds of remote attacks, all capable of completely taking over the system, with no way to completely stop it.

Despite the severity, a combination of Apple’s design decisions and how we use Macs dramatically reduces the risk, but you still need to be careful and ready to patch.

While we got a statement from Apple earlier today, I always feel better when Rich Mogull weighs in on any matters Mac security related.

Apple’s statement on the UNIX Bash vulnerability

Apple provided me with the following statement today:

“The vast majority of OS X users are not at risk to recently reported bash vulnerabilities. Bash, a UNIX command shell and language included in OS X, has a weakness that could allow unauthorized users to remotely gain control of vulnerable systems. With OS X, systems are safe by default and not exposed to remote exploits of bash unless users configure advanced UNIX services. We are working to quickly provide a software update for our advanced UNIX users.”

Clearly, most users do not use the advanced UNIX services.

On iOS 8 and predictive typing

There’s a world of difference between autocorrect and predictive typing. Autocorrect is like ordering food at a drive-through window via a balky speaker. You order something, and a voice at the other end reads back what you ordered. If you don’t pay close attention, you’ll miss the inaccuracies and won’t get what you wanted. There’s a constant monitoring required on your part to avoid mistakes that are a combination of clumsiness on your part and a lack of contextual understanding on the other end.

Autocorrect is active and will hijack your typing if you don’t pay attention. Predictive typing, on the other hand, is more of a passive experience. Use it if you like, don’t if you don’t. Predictive typing keeps you in the driver’s seat.

Predictive typing is smart, but passively smart. While autocorrect tries to tell me what word I am trying to spell, predictive typing tries to grok the context. For example, if I type, “I lifted the” and then hit a space, my three word choices are “ban”, “ban on” and “same”. These are reasonable guesses and, if they are right, a single tap and I’ve saved myself some typing.

Autocorrect is still there, but in a more passive form. When you hit space to end a word, iOS 8 will make a correction if need be. If you don’t like the change, hit delete and a bubble will appear with your original typing. Tap the bubble and either move on or make any corrections. This form of autocorrect works well for me, is a much less frustrating experience.

There’s great attention to detail here as well. For example, if I tap on a word to accept it, a space is automatically placed at the end of the word so I can continue typing. But what if I am at the end of a sentence? If I hit a double-space, a period is placed at the end of the previous word and the caps key is down, ready for the beginning of a new sentence (as you’d expect). If you type any form of punctuation (a ? or , perhaps), the space is erased and the punctuation mark is placed immediately after the last word entered.

Not sure who at Apple was responsible for this bit of code, but if I find out, next time we are in the same place, beers are on me.

From the overview page:

Achieving the highest overall DxOMark Mobile score to date of 82 points each, the Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus tie in first place wresting the coveted top spot from Samsung S5 and Sony Xperia Z3 /Z2 each with 79 points.

I’m new to the DxO review process. They do a nice range of tests. Note that there are 4 sections to the review, with links to the overview page, imaging results, video, and iPhone vs the competition.

From Apple’s original press release, here’s the current list of countries:

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be available in the US, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Japan, Puerto Rico, Singapore and the UK beginning this Friday, September 19 and in more than 20 additional countries beginning on Friday, September 26 including Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Isle of Man, Italy, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey and United Arab Emirates.