March 23, 2018


In a submission to the Unicode Consortium today, Apple has proposed a suite of new “accessibility emojis”.

New emojis proposed include a guide dog, hearing aid, prosthetic limbs, as well as people using canes and different types of wheelchairs.

Here’s a link to Apple’s actual Unicode proposal with all the details.

Love that Apple thinks this way, that accessibility support is so ingrained in the culture.

Apple’s “pay with a glance” iPhone X Apple Pay ad

Can’t help but wonder if this ad was made by the same team that did the wonderful Unlock ad we wrote about last week.

This new ad, called “Fly Market”, has the same frenetic energy, with things flying around, jumping into place. I love the “Back to the Future” callout (the two flaming tracks as the chair leaves the store) and the catchphrase, “Pay with a glance. Apple Pay on iPhone X.”

Take a look. Embedded below.


“Right now, music streaming is a utility,” Iovine says. “All the services are exactly the same, they do the same trick. If one of them lowered their price the rest are toast, because there’s no unique offering.”

He suggests that Apple Music will have to look at the frontrunner in the film and TV streaming game, Netflix, and try to replicate its model in order to scale in any meaningful way.


“Netflix has tons of original catalogue, six billion dollars worth of original content every year. That’s a value. All of the [music] streaming services have exactly the same catalogue and exactly the same music. And that’s partially due to the labels; they want it that way. But it’s not smart, and it will show in the end. Unless the streaming services become platforms and have something unique about them, they will not scale. Period.”


“When Shawn Fanning started [music sharing site] Napster, he said, ‘I want to trade songs’,” Iovine says. “He didn’t say, ‘I want to destroy the record business’. So, right now, what engineers are saying – because I work with a lot of them – they’re saying, ‘This bit of communication between artist and audience is still flawed.”

Reading this article, I felt a great sense of deja vu. The reference to The Defiant Ones as new had me searching for a date, sure that this was an old interview. But this was posted yesterday, and Jimmy does point out moving to a consulting gig at Apple, which is certainly current news.

No matter, I thought Iovine’s comments are insightful. Apple clearly sees the value in a music business social network, having tried any number of kicks at the can with no big wins. But I’d like to see them try this again, both because I would love a more powerful way to share music, and because I know if Apple finally gets social right, that solution will respect my privacy.

I absolutely love this long piece by MacStories own Federico Viticci. Federico explores an important Apple theme, that Apple products are much more than the sum of their parts, that the surrounding ecosystem is the rising tide that lifts all boats. The ecosystem makes each Apple product easier to use, adds value to each product.

Here’s one quote about AirPods and the potential of Apple-branded over-ear headphones that, to me, really brings this point home:

For me, the best headphones aren’t necessarily the ones that sound “the best”. Sure, there is a time and place for sitting down, putting on a great pair of quality over-ear headphones, and just listening to music. I still do this with the H6 and Momentum Wireless, and it’s exactly why I hope Apple is indeed working on their own over-ear headphones. But over time I’ve realized that the absolute best sound reproduction isn’t my priority. Simplicity, reliability, and fast access to audio in my ears is what I’m looking for.

This really clicks for me. It’s why I don’t get too wrapped around the axle when Siri doesn’t quite get my intent. There’s so much value simply having the ability to do the things that Siri does well, that I am OK working around the things that Siri has not yet mastered.

Great job by Federico. Read the whole thing, see if you don’t agree.

Andrew Orr, MacObserver:

We’ve shared plenty of tips on how to delete Facebook, remove third-party apps, control privacy settings, and delete bulk content. But what if you want to go even further? It turns out we can, and we can block Facebook completely by editing the hosts file.

In this guide we’ll be adding Facebook-owned domains to the hosts file, which will block them from our system. This is important because even if you deleted your Facebook account, Facebook can still track you around the web like Google does via its advertising platform.

This whole Facebook thing really has me torn. Personally, I was never a fan, at best a reluctant user. But I do get the benefit of reconnecting with old friends, that sort of thing.

But what I really hate is how deeply Facebook has embedded itself into the details of people’s personal data. So much so, that it has become almost impossible for the average person to extricate themselves from Facebook’s clutches.

Read the linked article, which walks you through one way of eliminating Facebook from your Mac. I’m not recommending this path. I don’t like any solution that has you disable a critical part of your Mac’s security infrastructure (in this case SIP). And, as is pointed out for iOS, and as Kirk McElhearn points out is possible for the Mac as well, you can use an ad blocker to achieve a similar end.

I take no fault with Andrew’s article. I’m using it as an example to point out how inexorably tied we’ve all become to Facebook.

What I’d like is a switch that let me remove myself from Facebook’s databases entirely, a do-not-track setting that Facebook would be required to respect. Fat chance of that happening.

Follow the headline link, check out the neon signage. I think it’s gorgeous.

The new Shinjuku Apple Store is incredibly well placed. It’s just blocks from Shinjuku Station, by far the world’s busiest transport hub. My 2 cents, this will be one of the most successful Apple Stores in the world.

I also love the neon-themed video Apple built to promote the store. It’s embedded below. Enjoy.

David Streitfeld, New York Times:

He leans over a scale model of the 59-acre site, which is named Willow Village. “There will be housing there,” he points. “There will be a retail street along here, with a grocery store and a drugstore. That round building in the corner? Maybe a cultural center.”

The “he” in this quote is Facebook’s VP of Real Estate, John Tenanes.

Willow Village will be wedged between the Menlo Park neighborhood of Belle Haven and the city of East Palo Alto, both heavily Hispanic communities that are among Silicon Valley’s poorest. Facebook is planning 1,500 apartments, and has agreed with Menlo Park to offer 225 of them at below-market rates. The most likely tenants of the full-price units are Facebook employees, who already receive a five-figure bonus if they live near the office.

And then there’s Google:

The search company plans a 600,000-square-foot office building with a roof that melts up into soft peaks, kind of like a meringue. It will have stores, cafes, gardens and even a space for theatrical performances, as well as a place for consumers to test-drive new Google technology.

They’re calling them Zucktown and Alphabet City. This the future of tech?

March 22, 2018

Film School Rejects:

Soderbergh and Baker might be the highest profile directors to turn to cellular devices for feature films, but there are plenty of independent filmmakers turning to the format.

The iPhone is a great tool for filmmakers – but it must be used by someone who understands how to create an engaging movie. I love the last line – “Pick up your phone and share your story, there are people who want to see it.” That’s true – but only if it is a good story to begin with, regardless of the tool you use to tell the story.


The launch of Fortnite, especially, resonates across the larger gaming spectrum in several unique ways. It’s the full and complete game as present on consoles, it’s iOS-first and it supports cross-platform play with console and PC players.

In addition, there are some technical advantages that keep Apple ahead of Android in this arena. Plenty of Android devices are very performant and capable in individual ways, but Apple has a deep holistic grasp of its hardware that allows it to push platform advantages in introducing new frameworks like ARKit.

Thos of us old enough to remember the bad old days know that Apple had a reputation at times for not being very “gamer friendly”, whether it was towards gamers themselves or game developers. Steve Jobs was famously apathetic and dismissive of the Mac as a gaming platform. But the iPhone has changed all of that.


Apple’s short film “Welcome Home,” directed by Spike Jonze and starring FKA twigs as a beleaguered city dweller whose drab apartment becomes a colorful, shape-shifting oasis thanks to her HomePod device, is easily one of 2018’s most captivating ads so far.

Now, we get a behind-the-scenes look at the film, which not only answers all of our questions about how it was made—it might just be the most engaging, comprehensive and flat-out best BTS video we’ve seen for an advertisement.

We posted about this new HomePod ad a few weeks ago. I think this behind the scenes video is even more interesting than the ad itself.

The Loop Bash at WWDC 2018

I’m pleased to announce The Loop Bash will take place again this year at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference. The Party will be held at The Ritz, a nightclub around the corner from the San Jose Convention Center, on June 4, 2018 from 8:00 pm to 12:00 am.

We will have live music at the event too. The Houserockers, one of the best bands in the Bay Area, will be on hand to help you rock the night away.

Beer and wine will be provided for free during the party hours and you can buy mixed drinks if you would rather have those types of drinks.

Tickets for the party are free, but you will need to RSVP in order to get into the event. I’ll make an announcement on how to RSVP for the party as we get closer to WWDC. Once you register for The Loop Bash, your ticket can be stored in your Apple Wallet—just show up and your ticket will be scanned at the door. Having a ticket does not guarantee entry into the party, but we always do our best to get everyone in.

I can’t wait to see you all there!

Follow up on APFS and the Apple Store Genius Bar

A few days ago, we ran a story, sourced from Charles Arthur and The Overspill, titled Beware taking your Mac running High Sierra to the Genius Bar: APFS might surprise them.

In a nutshell, Charles talks through taking his MacBook Pro, running macOS High Sierra, to the Apple Store for repair, and having his hard drive wiped because the tech did not detect that the drive was formatted as APFS.

As follow up to this, I spoke with a number of Apple Store employees, curious to see if this was a one-off situation, specific to one Apple Store, or if this was a hole in the system.

A few quotes:

Geniuses are required to take tests about all new hardware and software once it’s released. This is driven from the top at corporate. APFS is not news to Geniuses. Sometimes overly eager Technical Specialists or Technical Experts are allowed to take Mac appointments and APFS may be news to them.


100% of the Geniuses I’ve worked with know about APFS.

And, in reference to the store manager contacting Charles and wanting feedback:

Managers almost always call when people fill out those surveys and indicate they had a negative experience or something went wrong. Apple’s deep concern for customer service is one of the things I love the most about the company.

The strongest takeaway from all this? Apple Geniuses really know their stuff and care about Apple. Small sample size, perhaps, but that’s what it feels like to me when I visit a store.

I’d also say, if you are at an Apple Store and things start going south, consider asking if the person helping you might be willing to bring someone else in to offer an opinion. The goal would be to escalate the problem without hurting anyone’s feelings. To me, this situation with Charles should not have happened.

Ryne Hager, Android Police:

The touchscreen on your phone is the primary way you interact with it, so it absolutely needs to work. That makes problems like so-called “dead zones” or ignored/unregistered inputs among the most annoying out there. Based on reports, many are running into those types of touchscreen input problems with Samsung’s Galaxy S9+.

It’s tough to tell precisely how common the problem might be. Few users are as apt to report issues as Pixel-purchasers, so we can’t quite compare things against our coverage for Google’s hardware. But from what we have seen in places like Reddit, it’s reasonably widespread.


From this Reddit thread:

Take a screenshot or picture of your AirPods serial number. You can’t replace any parts without it.

Do this when you first get them!!

You can take a picture of the box or a screenshot from Settings > General > About > AirPods so that Apple can pull up the serial number.

If you lose the case and don’t have the serial number anywhere, you can’t even replace the case without it.

First things first, I do think it’s worth taking a screenshot of your AirPods serial number. It’s not that you can’t recover it if you lose, say, the case, but it will save you the hassle of hunting it down later.

I also think it’s interesting that the serial number only appears when you are connected to a device. So if you run out of power and lose your case, having the serial number on a screen shot will make replacing that case a bit easier.

I do believe that you can use anyone’s case to charge your AirPods. So if you lose your case, borrow one (from an Apple Store if need be) and charge up, then connect to your iPhone and look up the serial number.

All that said, here’s how to bring that serial number up on your iPhone:

  • Go to Settings > General > About
  • Notice that, if your AirPods are not connected, there’s no line for AirPods
  • Connect your AirPods. The AirPods line should appear in the About list.
  • Tap AirPods

That’s it. In addition to the Serial Number, you’ll also see the Model Number, Firmware Version, and Hardware Version. Take a screenshot, save it in Photos.

Epic Games, from their press release:

Epic Games today unveiled “Siren,” a high-fidelity, full performance character driven in real-time. Recreating the subtle intricacies of movement can be the difference between a realistic digital recreation and a trip into the uncanny valley, so Epic enlisted the real-time capture abilities of its partner Vicon, the industry leader in motion capture, to bring this project to life.

Siren is not simply a rendered character. Instead, she’s driven in real time:

Unreal Engine using Vicon’s new Live Link plugin. On a second screen, the Siren character – created using the likeness of Chinese actress Bingjie Jiang – moved in sync, driven in-engine at 60 frames per second.

Watch the video below. This is a step across the uncanny valley. To me, this is the future. I suspect, over time, we’ll see hyperrealistic avatars popping up in day-to-day interactions. For example, you might contact customer service, and have this avatar appear, driven by a complex script, backed up by a human.

As I said, watch the video, see what you think.

Obviously, this requires an iPhone X, but if you have or plan to get one, this is worth knowing.

The Guardian:

Churchgoers will no longer have to fumble in their pockets and purses for loose change or notes as the Church of England introduces contactless payment terminals in more than 16,000 churches, cathedrals and other religious sites.

Contactless payments have been on trial in 40 Anglican churches since last summer, and from Tuesday they will be extended to all dioceses with the aim of making donations easier and faster. Congregations will also be able to donate via text message.

Fascinating. And inevitable.

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

The heart rate monitors built into the Apple Watch and other wearable devices can detect abnormal heart rhythms with 97 percent accuracy, according to a new study conducted by the team behind the Cardiogram app for Apple Watch in conjunction with researchers at the University of California, San Francisco.

More than 139 million heart rate and step count measurements were collected from 9,750 users of the Cardiogram app who also enrolled in the UC San Francisco Health eHeart Study, with the data used to train DeepHeart, Cardiogram’s deep neural network.

This is a perfect use case for machine learning. Tons of available data, combined with a simple tag. Simple? Read this:

Once trained, DeepHeart was able to read heart rate data collected by wearables, distinguishing between normal heart rhythm and atrial fibrillation with a 97 percent accuracy rate, both when testing UCSF patients with known heart issues and Cardiogram participants.

Basically, DeepHeart plows through a ton of data and gets very good at identifying a heart’s rhythm as either normal or atrial fibrillation. The first phase of machine learning is training, where you hand the model a ton of data, each identified with the proper tag. After all the data is entered, a successful model will be able to identify new data with a high degree of accuracy. 97% is an incredibly good result.

Atrial fibrillation often goes undiagnosed, which is where the Apple Watch and other wearables can help. The Apple Watch won’t replace a traditional EKG, but it can alert people to a problem much earlier than it might otherwise be detected.

This tech will help save lives.

March 21, 2018


At Apple, design is the driving force, with manufacturing and engineering fully dialed in to support that vision. In practice, that means that Apple’s designers make choices nobody else would be able to make.

For example, when designing the new unibody Macbook Pro, Apple’s designers had a very specific design in mind. In almost every other company, the design team would have been told by the manufacturing team that what they wanted to do wouldn’t be possible. Here’s what manufacturing would say: “The only way to accomplish what you’ve designed is to use a CNC mill. That doesn’t scale! We would need thousands of the damn things!” At Apple, with its mountain of cash, that turns out not to be a limiting factor. If the designers want something, they’ll have it, even if that means buying 10,000 CNC mills to scale manufacturing or buying the entire output of a laser-drilling manufacturer (and later buying the whole company), because Apple needed the entire world’s supply of that particular type of laser.

No other manufacturer would even think to do that — it is a ludicrously over-engineered solution to a simple problem.

It’s good to be the king. Apple makes design and engineering choices that other companies wouldn’t even imagine doing.

Apple VP Greg Joswiak:

“We bring a very homogenous customer base to developers where 90% of [devices] are on the current versions of iOS,” says Joswiak. Apple’s customers embrace those changes and updates quickly, he says, and this allows developers to target new features and the full capabilities of the devices more quickly.

That is such an important point for Apple—its customers update hardware and software quickly, which allows developers to take advantage of new APIs and technologies in their apps. That, in turn, leads to more sales for developers and Apple, all while keeping the customers happy and engaged.

While Iovine was the public face of Apple Music and held meetings with employees and artists in Los Angeles, in recent years “most of Apple Music’s operations” had been designated to Robert Kondrk and Jeff Robbin, overseeing business and engineering sides respectively. Cue is said to now be deciding on whether to continue divvying up responsibilities between Kondrk and Robbin, promoting one to a more public role, or hiring someone outside of Apple to become the new Iovine.

I’m not really surprised with the move, whether it’s Jimmy or Apple that made the decision. Jeff Robbin is a trusted and longtime Apple employee that already has a lot of responsibility in Apple’s media business, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see Eddy Cue lean on him a bit more.

Slash Film:

When George Lucas was off at film school at the University of Southern California, he was exposed to all manner of film, from the mainstream to the experimental. One of the films that made the most profound impact on him was a short film from Canadian filmmaker Arthur Lipsett called 21-87. Clocking in at just over nine-minutes, the film might superficially seem to be a random collage of images and sounds, but these juxtapositions chosen by the filmmaker add up to create an overwhelming sense of emotion that is sure to cause deep, existential questions in viewers.

I’ve never heard of this short film but luckily, it’s embedded in the linked post.

Jeff Benjamin, 9to5Mac:

Software architect Andrew Faden hacked together a line-in and Bluetooth input for HomePod called BabelPod. Based around a $10 Raspberry Pi Zero W and a few other essential parts, Faden created a clever workaround that affords both indirect Bluetooth and line-in connectivity for Apple’s recently-launched wireless speaker.

Faden also had to write the software to take a line-in or Bluetooth connection and translate it into an AirPlay stream that the HomePod can understand.

This is a terrifically clever idea. Seemed only a matter of time until someone came up with this sort of solution.

On last week’s “HomePod One Month Later” Vector podcast, Rene Ritchie and I discussed Apple’s rationale for not shipping HomePod with a line-in port or generic Bluetooth support. Rene made the excellent point that if Apple did support those, the early HomePod reviews would have been based on the performance of external devices upon which they had no control. Fascinating point and one I agree with.

Here’s a link to Andrew Faden’s BabelPod page. Lots of detail in case you want to make your own.

Nice find from Andrew Leavitt of 17 Orbits. Just in time for Apple’s March 27th Education Event, here’s Steve Jobs talking about education.

Interesting video, filmed from a projected image. Not clear when this was made, but I’d guess this is around 1999 or so, given the presence of the clamshell iBook, which was released that summer.

Michael Tsai has pulled together a set of stories and tweets on this evolving story. Worth a scan, lots of links.

This post is full of useful tips, including several different ways to set contact relationships (Ryan is my son, or Jim is my boss, that sort of thing). Really good.

Just in time for Spring (it is snowing like crazy as I write this, but still), Apple has announced a new wave of Apple Watch bands featuring Spring colors and styles.

Follow the link, look at the images. Some nice looking bands.

March 20, 2018 became the second most valuable publicly listed U.S. company on Tuesday, surpassing Google parent Alphabet Inc for the first time.

These numbers change all the time and we don’t post about it every time they change, but this is significant for Amazon. They only trail Apple at this point.

In 2014, Facebook bought WhatsApp for $16 billion, making its co-founders — Jan Koum and Brian Acton — very wealthy men. Koum continues to lead the company, but Acton quit earlier this year to start his own foundation. And he isn’t done merely with WhatsApp — in a post on Twitter today, Acton told his followers to delete Facebook.

“It is time,” Acton wrote, adding the hashtag #deletefacebook.


The Neve mic preamp is an undisputed audio masterpiece, adding genuine Neve sheen, richness, and thick musical detail to any signal that passes through it. The pinnacle of Neve preamp design is the classic 1073 module with EQ, but Neve also briefly produced the 1290 module — a rare, preamp-only version of the 1073.

Now, you can get the clarity, grit, and harmonically complex class‑A saturation of this amazing mic preamplifier in a simple two-knob plug-in that’s perfect for UA Audio Interface owners.

This release is huge. Being able to put the Neve Preamp into your chain using Universal Audio’s Unison technology will change the way your music sounds. There is a video and some sound clips on the UA Web site that you should listen to when you get a chance.