June 20, 2018

Popular Science:

Every four years there’s a new ball for the World Cup—and every four years players are unhappy with it. Maybe it’s too light and has too much lift, like the 2002 Fevernova. Or maybe it wobbles unexpectedly in the air, making it harder for goalies to predict its motion, like the 2006 Teamgist. Or maybe the ball suddenly changes speed, dropping out of the air and causing accidental handballs, like the 2010 Jabulani.

At the World Cup level, these tiny changes in a ball’s aerodynamics can legitimately impact a team’s performance, so the intense scrutiny of the World Cup ball is perhaps to be expected. “You could argue that it’s the most important piece of equipment in the most popular sport in the world,” says John Eric Goff, Professor of Physics at University of Lynchburg.

Non-soccer/football fans don’t realize it but the shape and “flight path” of a soccer ball is crucial. No more so than during the World Cup.

Jony Ive’s favorite color is orange

Before I watched this video, I was skeptical, could only think of a few cases of orange used in a modern Apple product design. But wow, there really is a lot of it.

Rolling Stone:

As streaming gives the music industry its biggest profits in a decade, the CD business continues to plunge. CD sales have fallen 80 percent in the past decade, from roughly 450 million to 89 million.

And:

Since Tesla began manufacturing cars without CD players, other companies like Ford and Toyota have recently followed. Downloads – once seen as the CD’s replacement – have plummeted 58 percent since peaking in 2012, their profits now even smaller than physical sales.

And:

Artists have taken note; Bruce Springsteen released his latest box set, The Album Collection Vol. 2, 1987-1996, exclusively on vinyl, with no CD option, unlike 2014’s Vol. 1.

So the music world is evolving to streaming and vinyl. CDs are still there, but that world is clearly shrinking.

Fascinating to see vinyl continue to take hold. That’s becoming the way to own music. And, clearly, there are people who still value that.

When I saw the watchOS 5 Walkie-Talkie announcement in the WWDC keynote, I got a little excited, had a little nostalgia buzz full of campouts and whispered late night push-to-talk conversations.

The video embedded below is Jeff Benjamin doing what he does best, taking you on a tour through the latest shiny, in this case, a step-by-step on the watchOS 5 Walkie-Talkie app.

Is this purely for fun? Or is there a use case? The performance seemed just a bit laggy, clearly laggier than the real world walkie-talkies which had no A-to-D conversions, were straight real-time radio transmission.

If the answer is, don’t be grumpy, just have fun with it, cool. Just want to be sure I’m not missing the value here.

First check out the video in this tweet:

The concept is familiar, a business card, a real world object, that expands when seen through an augmented reality lens, tracking to the original object, but adding views and controls that enhance the original object.

To me, there’s no question that this approach has tremendous potential. Imagine picking up an item in the grocery store and having a pane appear with buttons like “find best value” or “find cheapest” and having arrows appear on nearby shelves marked with appropriate alternatives.

Or a “convert” button that translates the price into a common format. For example, if you buy paper towels, it might show you cents per foot, so you can compare differently priced products, which range from $/roll to $/package to cents/sheet (with different sheet sizes).

I can definitely see the advantage of wearing a pair of glasses when immersed in an AR environment. It would get old constantly having to hold my phone up as a lens as I walk through a store. I wear glasses, so it’d be interesting to see how Apple will deal with the corrective lens issue. Will we someday see AR glasses that automatically correct my vision as well as offering an AR overlay?

This is an unbelievable story. A true story, not some futuristic SciFi darkness, but a thing that actually happened. Top of the front page on Hacker News this morning.

This reads like the screenplay from Brazil.

WSB Atlanta:

Dunwoody police said burglars took a page out of the movie ‘Mission Impossible’ when they stole more than $100k worth of Apple products from a Best Buy Store.

Police said the thieves rappelled through a hole in the ceiling at the store on Hammond Drive.

Reading this story, I can’t help but picture this scene.

June 19, 2018

Two things I pulled from the linked Reddit post:

  • Here’s a link to a nice image of an Apple Maps van, with its can shaped Velodyne HDL-32E Lidar (on the four corners of the roof rack) and the 360 degree cameras.

  • Here’s a link to Apple’s Apple Maps Vehicles page, which shows what parts of the country the vans are currently roaming.

Interesting stuff.

Have an iPad? This is a terrific walk through what’s coming in iOS 12, a chance to wrap your head around the new gestures before you are plunked square in the middle of them with time pressures and work to do.

Glenn Fleishman weighs in with some excellent advice on what to do if you inherit or buy a Mac, to make sure you don’t end up with an unusable doorstop down the line. Worth a scan, just to get the gist of the issue, and a more detailed read if you are in that situation.

That’s a damn good deal. Especially if you are considering a second HomePod.

Benjamin Mayo, 9to5Mac:

A report from supply chain sources, via Korean language publication The Bell, suggests that the largest of Apple’s 2018 iPhone lineup will be the most popular. Apple is set to announce an ‘iPhone X Plus’, or whatever Apple ends up branding it, with a 6.46-inch OLED screen, packing a ~6.5-inch screen into roughly the same size as the existing 5.5-inch iPhone 8 Plus.

And:

The Bell report says Apple has ordered more screen panels for the X Plus than any other model. It forecasts 45 million 6.46-inch panels, about 25 million panels for the 5.8-inch iPhone X successor, and 30 million 6.04-inch LCD screens for the new lower-priced flagship.

Not hard to believe the rumors of an iPhone X Plus, also not hard to believe that Apple will go with that name, if they do ship that phone. And not hard to believe it will become the most popular phone.

A 6.5 inch iPhone X Plus would be be a huge upgrade to the iPhone 8 Plus, the form-factor it would be replacing. Better screen, more pixels, what’s not to like? To me, the real question is one of price.

The iPhone X sold very well at its $999 price point last year, but the ‘super cycle’ of upgraders did not materialise in the way some investors expected.

The iPhone 8 starts at $699 and the iPhone 8 Plus at $799. Which leads to an iPhone X Plus entry price of $1099. Is that too high, too soon? We shall see.

Drew McCormack:

Apple currently allows free trials in two forms: if you sell subscriptions, you can give customers a free month to try the app; and, you can give your app away free, and offer a free In-App Purchase (IAP) to unlock all features for a fixed period of time.

So why does Apple allow these forms, but not offer a more formal version of free trials?

And:

Think for a moment about how a ‘formal’ free trial system would work. What would you see in the App Store? Probably something along the lines of a button with the text “$50 with Free Trial”. Now take your average iOS customer, who has never heard of free trials as they exist outside the App Stores. I suspect many will already be confused by this.

Drew goes on to explain that confusion, with specific questions like:

  • If I click the button, will I be charged $50 now?
  • What happens when my trial is up: will I be charged automatically then?

Not sure that confusion can’t be addressed by better wording. And if Apple did go down that road, I think they would try to make sure all those questions were answered before the user was put in that decision position.

I also think, and this is a nitpick on the post’s title, it’s impossible for anyone outside Apple to truly know Apple’s logic on this without either a clear statement from Apple or being inside the room.

To be clear, I do like this post. The two points above are my instant reaction, don’t want them to be left unsaid. Don’t let those points derail you, though. Drew’s post is worth reading.

Moving on:

So why are the existing options any better? Let’s take the free IAP system. Firstly, there is no fear about downloading an app — it is free to download. There is a nice big “Get” button to indicate that. Second, once you have the app, you are told there is a free trial, and you are given a clear choice to opt-in. Because it is an IAP, and not a subscription, you know there can be no charge at the end of the trial. There is a second IAP to purchase the app; it is equally clear that you don’t pay until you activate that IAP, and that you can do that any time. Everything is driven by the customer, and all opt-in. No uncertainty.

To me, that’s the core. Apple’s chose a clear, straightforward solution. Not one that will satisfy everyone, but one that won’t confuse users.

This is an interesting take on the free trial issue, and a good balance to Daniel Jalkut’s excellent Ersatz Free Trials post from a few weeks ago.

[H/T Dman228]

June 18, 2018

In the suit, originally filed in late 2011, a group of consumers accused Apple of monopolizing the market for iPhone apps by not allowing any other way of purchasing such apps, and therefore engaging in anti-competitive practices. The suit alleges that since the App Store’s launch, Apple “illegally monopolized the distribution of iPhone apps, and that the commissions charged to app developers inflate the prices consumers ultimately pay for apps.”

I just don’t agree with this at all. Apple is providing a safe place for developers to sell apps, and for consumers to buy apps without wondering about malware and all of the other scams that go on out there.

Apple:

Kids ages 8 to 12 can expand their digital creativity through hands-on projects at Apple. Campers choose one of three tracks, then spend 90 minutes a day for three days at a local Apple Store immersed in their chosen subject.

I really wished we lived near an Apple Store. I’ve heard nothing but good things about these camps and I’m sure my 12-year-old would love them.

If you do nothing else, just check out that first photo. Wow!

Bucket list.

This came out last week, but I just ran across it over the weekend, thought it worth a share.

I’m a huge Beatles nerd, McCartney fan. This is a definite yes for me, a solid thumbs up. Gimmicky perhaps, but I’ll be watching nonetheless.

Last week, we shared this example of image tracking using ARKit 2. Here’s another one:

Wonderful. I get that, perhaps, our AR future will be seen through glasses. But examples like these are useful even seen through the lens of your iPhone. To me, a relatively short AR transaction works just fine on an iPhone. And I do agree that a more immersive experience will require glasses or (way in the future) connected contact lenses.

Gene Munster, Loup Ventures:

At the helm of the company’s content efforts are Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, who Apple hired away from Sony in 2017. Erlicht and Van Amburg ran Sony’s primetime series division since 2005. They will report directly to Eddie Cue, who runs Apple’s Services business. Apple has also hired an array of industry veterans from a range of backgrounds including streaming platforms like Hulu and Amazon Studios, and mainstay media companies like WGN America and Legendary Entertainment.

Nice rollup of Apple’s content efforts to date. Amazing to see it all together like this.

And this comparison with Netflix:

At first glance, it appears Netflix’s lead in original content is insurmountable. Netflix will end 2018 with close to 1,000 original titles and spend an estimated $3.5 billion on new titles this year. Keep in mind that almost half of that content is outside of the U.S. That compares to Apple, which has 2 titles out today and another 16 in the works (to be released in 2019 at the earliest), expecting to spend about $900 million this year.

But:

However, history is on Apple’s side, given that just five years ago Netflix had 13 original titles including the debut season of House of Cards. In other words, with the right resources, which Apple has, Apple’s original content titles can ramp from just under two dozen to potentially over one hundred. We note that Apple has stated they are focused on quality vs. quantity.

To me, that last is the key. Can Apple figure out how to deliver the quality? If I was looking at a model for how to do this, I would start with Netflix, but then move on to HBO. Netflix has plenty of swings and misses, HBO less so. If I was on the Apple team, I’d be asking the question, “What is HBO’s secret sauce?”

Eliz Kılıç:

3D Touch is missing the most obvious thing to be mainstream. Visual cues.

This. So much this. There is nothing in the interface that signals to a user that a particular element will respond to force/3D touch. The only way to tell is by trial and error. And then, once you’ve figured it out, you have to remember what works, or trail and error all over again.

And what’s great about this writeup is that Eliz not only identified the problem, but came up with an elegant solution. Check the last three images in the article, see if you can tell which controls are force touchable?

Eliz tied this up with a bow, handed it to Apple. Here’s hoping someone is listening.

Apple:

iPhone users in the United States who call 911 will be able to automatically and securely share their location data with first responders beginning later this year with iOS 12, providing faster and more accurate information to help reduce emergency response times.

The way it works, prior to iOS 12:

To address this challenge, Apple launched HELO (Hybridized Emergency Location) in 2015, which estimates a mobile 911 caller’s location using cell towers and on-device data sources like GPS and WiFi Access Points.

And the new process:

Apple today announced it will also use emergency technology company RapidSOS’s Internet Protocol-based data pipeline to quickly and securely share HELO location data with 911 centers, improving response time when lives and property are at risk. RapidSOS’s system will deliver the emergency location data of iOS users by integrating with many 911 centers’ existing software, which rely on industry-standard protocols.

And:

The FCC requires carriers to locate callers to within 50 meters at least 80 percent of the time by 2021. iOS location services are capable of exceeding this requirement today, even in challenging, dense, urban environments. This new feature allows Apple to make these benefits available to local 911 centers now rather than years from now.

Not sure of the details, but sounds like a more direct, efficient process, yielding more accurate locations well ahead of the FCC required date.

June 17, 2018

World of Indie:

Fifty years ago, 5 unmanned lunar orbiters circled the moon, taking extremely high resolution photos of the surface. They were trying to find the perfect landing site for the Apollo missions. They would be good enough to blow up to 40 x 54ft images that the astronauts would walk across looking for the great spot. After their use, the images were locked away from the public, as at the time they would have revealed the superior technology of the USA’s spy satellite cameras, which the orbiters cameras were designed from. Instead the images from that time were grainy and low resolution, made to be so by NASA.

What a great story.

Hodinkee:

Parmigiani Fleurier has had a long-standing relationship with Bugatti, going all the way back to 2006, when the Type 370 watch – inspired by the Bugatti Veyron – was first introduced.

The Type 370 and Type 390 both employ very unconventional movement architecture in order to show the time in a very unconventional fashion.

I may just be an uncouth peasant but good God that is one butt ugly watch.

TechCo:

It’s every backer’s nightmare. The ultra-cool bit of tech kit you crowdfunded, which is totally going to change your life in every conceivable way, has been hit by delays, silence, spec-alterations and missed backer rewards. Until, finally the company resurfaces in the comments to say that the money’s gone, the project has folded, and there is no product to launch.

So, how can you make sure that the product you back actually comes out, and that you’re not supporting the 1 project in 10 that doesn’t deliver?

I’ve been burned by a couple of failed Kickstarters and have had several more fail to meet their goals. This article has some good ideas on how to make sure you don’t get ripped off.

June 16, 2018

New York Times:

The World Cup started on Thursday. You may not be the world’s biggest soccer fan, but you want to at least pretend, right? Excellent. We’ve got you covered. Here is our six-step plan to sounding smart wherever you might be watching the 2018 World Cup.

For most of the world, The World Cup is “The Greatest Spectacle in Sport”. I’m not a huge soccer/football fan but when I lived in Vancouver, BC, I loved going to Commercial Drive (a wonderfully diverse ethnic area) and watch games with fans of a particular country. I was in a New York City Brazilian bar for the 1998 World Cup Final between Brazil and France and, even though the Brazilians lost, I’ve never had more fun watching a sports game.

MLB umpire Tom Hallion mic’d up

This deals with major league baseball and ejections so, needless to say, it’s very NSFW.

How this woman makes mind-blowing bubbles

Everyone loves bubbles.

Digital Photography Review:

Photographer Drew Gardner has been a photographer for more than 30 years, and since 1999 he’s worked mostly in the commercial world. Following a recent move into 360-degree imaging, he accepted a commission from British newspaper The Telegraph to shoot a gigapixel image of the queen’s birthday parade. Earlier this week we spoke to Drew to learn more about how the project came together.

This is a fun shot to zoom in on and scroll around. Don’t bother to check – I already looked to see if there were any staff in the windows of the palace.

June 15, 2018

Apple today announced a unique, multi-year content partnership with Oprah Winfrey, the esteemed producer, actress, talk show host, philanthropist and CEO of OWN.

Together, Winfrey and Apple will create original programs that embrace her incomparable ability to connect with audiences around the world.

Winfrey’s projects will be released as part of a lineup of original content from Apple.

Apple is making its moves in the entertainment business and they seem very different than what competitors like Netflix are focused on.

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