July 30, 2021

Thanks to Bare Bones Software for sponsoring The Loop this week. There’s a lot to love about software I’ve been using for more than 20 years and now BBEdit, the power tool for text, is ready for Big Sur and M1-powered Macs and was just updated to version 14!

The Dalrymple Report: ZZ Top, iOS 15 Maps, and Siri

It was a sad week for the music world as Dusty Hill, bassist for ZZ Top died at 72. Dave and I also discuss some of the changes in iOS 15, specifically with Maps and Siri. And Dave gives us an old school iPhone tip that may help you record video a bit quicker when you don’t have much time.

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July 29, 2021

This is a fascinating read, filled with backstory, and accompanied by a series of excellent close-up shots of some old school Macintosh chips, including the infrared mouse chip, the real time clock chip / parameter ram, and an early Apple sound chip.

Best bit:

Steve would regularly hold “all hands” meetings in the central atrium of the Bandley 3 building. This was a large open tiled area that later also housed the Bosendorfer piano, the BMW motorcycle, and some video games. There Steve would, among other things, exhort us to work harder. During one exchange someone said to him, “Steve, at some point we need to go home and do our laundry and pay our credit card bills”. He immediately responded saying he would have a washer/dryer installed by Monday if we wanted it, and he didn’t understand the credit card thing because he just deposited a bunch of money (I think he said something like ~$35K) in his credit card at the start of the year and never had to worry about it. The thing was – he appeared dead serious about his responses. Either that or he could deadpan so well that he fooled all of us. Steve would use the all-hand meetings to laud team members he thought were “great”. This would frequently involve very publicly handing out what we called “the grey envelopes”, containing usually some form of monetary remuneration. But Steve had an innate uncanny ability to sense whatever it was that would most motivate a subordinate – be it cash, recognition, flattery, fear – whatever.

Great read.

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

There are some major improvements to Siri in iOS 15, with Apple introducing features that iPhone users have long asked for. On devices with an A12 chip or later, ‌Siri‌ can do on-device processing and there’s support for offline requests.

Most importantly:

Starting in ‌iOS 15‌, speech processing and personalization are done on-device. This makes ‌Siri‌ faster at processing requests, but also more secure. Most audio requests made of ‌Siri‌ are kept entirely on the ‌iPhone‌ and are no longer uploaded to Apple’s servers for processing.

And:

With on-device processing now available, there are a wide range of ‌Siri‌ requests that can be handled offline. ‌Siri‌ can create (and disable) timers and alarms, launch apps, control audio playback, and access Settings options.

This is a huge step up, especially useful if you are in an area with low cell coverage. In a similar vein, wonder if Apple Maps will add the ability to download maps, something Google Maps offers in its Android and iPhone apps.

Apple iPhone video: Shoot and edit otherworldly photos in Night Mode

Landon, a creative at Apple Grand Central in New York City, joins up with Maria Lax in London to do a nighttime photo expedition, exploring techniques to up your Night Mode photo technique.

This was a lot of fun to watch.

Follow the headline link, tap Search in the bar at the top, type AirPods Pro.

The price is said to be through this Saturday, in store pickup only.

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

There are two separate widget options. The first allows users to check traffic conditions, store opening times, restaurant reviews, and more for a given location, while the second is designed to let users find places that are nearby like restaurants, gas stations, and grocery stores.

And:

The Google Maps widget can be accessed using the “+” button either in the Today View or on the ‌Home Screen‌ after downloading the latest version of the app.

If you are not finding the Google Maps Widget, make sure you have the latest version of Google Maps (follow this link, tap Update), then, in the Home Screen, long press to enter wiggle mode, then tap the “+” in the upper left corner. The Google Maps widget should show up there.

July 28, 2021

Joseph “Dusty” Hill, ZZ Top’s bassist for more than 50 years, has died, the group’s longtime rep confirmed. No cause of death was cited.

The band’s Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard issued a statement:

“We are saddened by the news today that our Compadre, Dusty Hill, has passed away in his sleep at home in Houston, TX. We, along with legions of ZZ Top fans around the world, will miss your steadfast presence, your good nature and enduring commitment to providing that monumental bottom to the ‘Top’. We will forever be connected to that ‘Blues Shuffle in C.’

“You will be missed greatly, amigo.”

Such incredibly sad news for the music world.

From the headline-linked Apple support page:

CR2032 batteries with bitterant coatings might not work with AirTag or other battery-powered products, depending on the alignment of the coating in relation to the battery contacts.

Bitterant coatings? They are added to small things (like button cell batteries) to make them less attractive to children. If a kid smells a bitterant coating, it’ll smell bad. If they put a bitterant coated battery in their mouth, they’ll likely spit it right out.

And it turns out that the bitterant coating can interfere with electrical conductivity. So check the package if you’re looking for a replacement CR2032 for your AirTags.

[H/T Jack Brewster]

Video showing iOS Safari beta tweaks

Jeff Benjamin, 9to5Mac, put together this video showing all the tiny iOS 15 tweaks that came along with the new beta. If you are specifically interested in the changes that came to Safari, jump to about 6 minutes in.

This new Safari design is going to take some getting used to.

Follow the link for images of the old vs new tab design, as well as the Settings interface for switching between them.

You can also see these two things on Twitter (here’s my Settings tweet, and here’s one showing the new tab layout).

I do appreciate the new setting, which separates the issue of the all in one address bar from the design of the tabs themselves. Here are some thoughts on the tab design:

The rounded rects feel retro, outdated. The tabs feel like blobs, floating in space. An individual tab does not feel strongly rooted to the page below it. If you have multiple tabs open, it’s not immediately clear which tab is connected to the page below it.

The current tab is marked by a different shade. Unfortunately, this effect is subtle, not at all obvious-at-a-glance. All of these point combine to make it difficult to get a sense of where you are (which tab is active) and where to tap to make changes.

Beyond this are some behavioral issues, which I see more as tweakable beta issues, not foundational design problems. When I tap on a non-active tab to switch to it, the destination tab is selected, and then, after a slight pause, the tab layout changes. This comes up consistently when I try to select a background tab to close it. I tap the tab, then head to the close “x” to tap on it. By the time I get to it, the tab layout has changed just enough for me to miss and cause another tab to come to the front.

There are other tweaky behavioral issues, but I think if the iPadOS Safari team can address the tab design issues, the rest will sort itself out over time.

My two cents.

A series of charts pulled together by Jason Snell, a great collection of data I look forward to after every Apple quarterly results call.

The first chart gives a real sense of how important iPhone sales are to Apple’s bottom line. No hiding it, Apple remains an iPhone company. But look how big the Services pie chart slice has gotten.

To see this growth more clearly, scroll down to the Services Revenue chart (about 2/3 way down the post). On the left side of the chart (about 4 years ago) Services revenue is at $7.6 billion, steady, steady growth to last quarter’s $17.5 billion.

This tells an important story, of Apple diversifying their way out of dependence on iPhone sales growth. If you haven’t already, take a look at the Jean-Louis Gassée post from yesterday. As Apple shifts from dependence on hardware sales, leaning more and more on services revenue, how will their culture change?

First things first, props to Jason Snell for pulling together the call transcript and the charts collection (which I’ll post next). Thanks, Jason.

As to the transcript, lots to read, too much to highlight, but I will post one quote, this from Apple CFO Luca Maestri, when asked about the impact of the pandemic on Apple’s results:

Well of course, we don’t have the crystal ball that tells us exactly what these different variables, how they impacted our business. We do know that on the positive side of the ledger, obviously, especially during the periods of extreme lockdowns, digital services did very well because entertainment options were limited. And so obviously our digital services did really, really well.

Obviously with more people working from home, more people studying from home, we know that iPad and Mac demand was very, very strong. On the other side, we had certain services like advertising, because of the reduced economic activity, AppleCare, because our stores were closed, they were affected negatively. And certain products like the iPhone or the Watch that are maybe more complex types of sales because of the complexity of the transaction.

They were also affected because so many points of sale were closed all around the world, not only our stores, but also our partner stores, right? So we had that dynamic throughout COVID. And now some of these businesses are rebounding.

I mentioned advertising and AppleCare. IPad and Mac, it’s difficult for us to gauge because we’ve been constrained for quite a long period of time, and the reality is that maybe the new normal after we exit COVID may be different from the past. For example, maybe there’s going to be hybrid models around work, for example.

And so it’s difficult to tell you on a net basis what that is. And this is very fluid, because it tends to change over time. I can certainly tell you that we’re all looking forward to a COVID-free world. I think that that would be very good for us and for our customers as well.

I broke Luca’s answer into paragraphs, just to make it easier to read. I find it interesting to be able to separate Apple’s long term trending/direction as a business from the shorter term (I hope) effects brought about by the pandemic.

July 27, 2021

Apple reports record third quarter revenue

Apple on Tuesday reported revenue of $81.4 billion, up 36 percent year over year, and a record for the company’s fiscal third quarter.

“This quarter, our teams built on a period of unmatched innovation by sharing powerful new products with our users, at a time when using technology to connect people everywhere has never been more important,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We’re continuing to press forward in our work to infuse everything we make with the values that define us — by inspiring a new generation of developers to learn to code, moving closer to our 2030 environment goal, and engaging in the urgent work of building a more equitable future.”

Apple reported iPhone revenue of $39.5 billion this quarter, up from $26.4 billion in the year-ago quarter. Mac revenue was $8.2 billion this quarter, up from the $7 billion reported this time last year. iPad revenue was $7.3 billion this quarter, compared to $6.5 billion in the year-ago quarter. Wearables, Home and Accessories were $8.7 billion this quarter, compared to $6.4 billion last year at this time, and Services was $17.4 billion this quarter, up from $13.1 billion in the year-ago quarter.

Apple’s board of directors has declared a cash dividend of $0.22 per share of the company’s common stock. The dividend is payable on August 12, 2021 to shareholders of record as of the close of business on August 9, 2021.

How Ted Lasso created their fake crowd stadium shots

I found this whole thing fascinating. The pandemic truly was the mother of invention here, forcing the Barnstorm VFX team to think outside the box.

[H/T Kirk McElhearn]

Deadline:

Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso, currently nominated for 20 Emmy Awards, debuted its second season on July 23 delivering the streamer’s biggest premiere day ever, largest opening weekend ever and No. 1 debut across all series and movies, the company said Monday.

And:

During the Ted Lasso Season 2 premiere weekend July 23-25, Apple TV+ grew its new viewers by a record-breaking 50% week-over-week. There was halo effect, with Ted Lasso helping boost viewership for Apple TV+’s comedies Schmigadoon, Physical and Mythic Quest as well during the three-day period.

And:

The viewership for the opening weekend of Ted Lasso’s second season was six times bigger than the viewership for the series’ premiere weekend last year.

The 6x growth from the Season One premiere is no surprise, since few people had a sense of what was coming when the very first Ted Lasso episode dropped last year. But still, a spectacular weekend. Ted Lasso is Apple TV+’s first true tentpole show.

Some simple, yet powerful iPhone filmmaking techniques

Some great technique insights, in this short commissioned by Apple.

There’s forced perspective (little kid as giant monster), a cool low-budget crane shot, and a spooky lighting effect. All of these are shots you can recreate at home, and a good starting point for other shots you might be inspired to create with your own materials/equipment.

Jean-Louis Gassée:

Once upon a time, Apple offered an easy-to-understand business model. The company made personal computers, small, medium, and large. Successfully positioned in the affordable luxury market sector, Apple devices sold well with healthy margins. Those margins helped finance strong R&D investments and took good care of employees, investors, and Uncle Sam.

All of Apple’s other services and accessories had but one raison d’être: raise the sales volumes and margins of the company’s personal computers.

And:

In Fiscal Year 2006, the year before the iPhone, iPod sales exceeded Mac revenue $7.7B to $7.4B. Before it became the iPhone company, Apple was all about the iPod.

Most importantly:

Behind the scenes, the iPod blazed the trail for the iPhone. Culturally, it created a taste for miniaturized devices; technically, it drove the Supply Chain Management discipline and connections that would become essential for the success of the iPhone.

The iPod marked a shift in Apple’s workings as a company and, of course, set them on an incredible growth path. Tim Cook joined Apple as Senior VP for worldwide operations in March 1998, bringing in a critical understanding of supply chain management. The iPod shipped in October 2001, the first real test of those skills.

Then the iPhone happened and Apple insiders had an almost religious epiphany: iPhone apps are digital files, not unlike a song in the iTunes Store. Somehow, everything had been preordained to work for an Apple store: The infrastructure, the payment system and, just as important, customer behavior. The iTunes Store begat the iPhone App Store.

Another shift:

The App Store became more than an iPhone support function, it became a gigantic business in itself. One that Apple doesn’t disclose but bundles into the Services category. The Services number includes much more than the undisclosed App Store revenue, it encompasses services such as iCloud and Music revenue, Apple Care, and the more visible Apple TV activities.

And:

The iPhone’s phenomenal success created a problem by weighing too much in Apple’s books: too seasonal, too risky because a so-so or worse model would have too much of a negative impact. Adding all sorts of services to the exploding App Store created the perception of recurring, sticky, less-seasonal revenue that would buffer Apple’s financials against iPhone uncertainties.

The shift toward services raises this question:

What happens to priorities, to company culture? What will be sacrificed and what will be preserved? For example, if budgetary restrictions are needed, what will be prioritized: the next Ted Lasso or the next Apple Silicon processor? Crises always happen and almost always come out of nowhere, a big intellectual property lawsuit, a mediocre iPhone, a big Augmented Reality flop, a stillborn Apple Car… In reality, a crisis tends to be something no one could have imagined, otherwise it would have been handled preventively.

And:

I naively hope Apple won’t lose its device-centered culture, where the sharpest tech candidates still dream of working on the next iOS version or the next Apple Silicon processor, as opposed to working on Hollywood deals.

Jean-Louis does a terrific job capturing Apple’s shifts over time, raising significant questions about Apple’s priorities as it evolves. A great read.

From this roundup from 9to5Mac’s Ben Lovejoy on analyst expectations:

Ahead of tomorrow’s AAPL Q3 2021 earnings report, analysts are expecting good news. The Wall Street consensus is that the Cupertino company will report fiscal Q3/calendar Q2 revenue of $72.93B – up from 59.69B in the same quarter last year.

They expect earnings per share to reflect both this dramatic revenue growth and continued stock buybacks that effectively increase the value of each remaining share.

Certainly a core issue on the call will be Tim Cook’s comments on the pandemic, both in the previous quarter and in terms of its impact on future performance.

July 26, 2021

Thanks to Bare Bones Software for sponsoring The Loop this week. There’s a lot to love about software I’ve been using for more than 20 years and now BBEdit, the power tool for text, is ready for Big Sur and M1-powered Macs and was just updated to version 14!

Apple MagSafe Battery Pack teardown

The teardown itself starts at about 3 minutes in. I found the whole video fascinating, but one inescapable conclusion: Apple knows how to make stuff that no one is ever getting into without destruction.

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

Apple has made so many improvements to the Maps app in iOS 15 that it’s almost an entirely different experience. There are better driving directions, improved transit directions, and more immersive AR-based walking directions.

And:

The Maps design has once again been updated, and you can see everything at an incredible level of detail that wasn’t available before, especially in cities and in places where there was no detail before. This guide walks through all of the changes that have been introduced in the Maps app in ‌iOS 15‌.

First off, props to these iOS 15 guides Juli has been pulling together. I love the content, love the format. Easy to scan, get a sense of what’s new.

In this case, it’s all about Apple Maps in iOS 15. The changes here are excellent. Don’t miss the Globe View, a great addition to Maps.

A good acid test for Schmigadoon

If you like musicals, watch the Schmigadoon clip embedded below. It’s well representative of the Apple TV+ show. In my mind, it’ll tell you if Schmigadoon is for you.

AppleScoop:

It has been ten years since Apple last attended the National Association of Broadcasters Show, better known as the NAB Show. To the surprise of many, the NAB has announced in their exhibitor list – out of the blue – that Apple will be attending this years show after a decade of absence.

And:

Just over ten years ago, Apple held its last fated announcement at the NAB Show. On April 12, 2011, Apple announced Final Cut Pro X at the Final Cut Pro User Group Supermeet, an event held at the NAB Show. While it is unknown why Apple has decided to attend this year, their previous years were related to Final Cut, with Final Cut Pro X being announced at the NAB show in 2011 (to much criticism).

Here’s a link to the National Association of Broadcasters’ NABShow site.

Scroll down a bit to The Who’s Attending This Year section. In the first of the three-page slideshow, there’s Apple, between ABC and CBS.

The show starts on October 9th. It’ll be interesting to see what Apple has up its sleeve.

Apple posts new Apple Watch ad

This ad will definitely get your heart racing. Or, at least, raise your blood pressure. Jarring juxtaposition with Apple’s recent tagline, Relax, it’s iPhone.

July 23, 2021

Thanks to BZG for sponsoring The Loop this week. Unite 4 lets you turn websites into customizable, native apps on your Mac. Unite 4 includes dozens of new features, including support for native notifications, new customization options, M1 support, and much more. Unite apps also serve as a great alternative for resource hogging Electron apps or half-baked Catalyst apps.

You could create a Gmail web client that behaves like a native mail client, or a status bar app for Apple Music or Overcast, and much more.

The Loop readers get 20% off this week when you purchase Unite 4 or when you use the promo code ‘LOOPINSIGHT’ at checkout.

You can also try Unite for 14 days absolutely free or use it as part of your subscription if you’re a Setapp subscriber!

The Dalrymple Report: Apple Watch, Rick Rubin, and Duck, duck, jeep

Dave and I talk about some of the features of the Apple Watch this week, including tracking your sleep with the device. We also look at Rick Rubin’s new documentary about the Beatles and Dave tells us about a game he found out about called duck, duck, jeep.

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July 22, 2021

On Tuesday, Apple updated the MagSafe power adapter (not to be confused with the iPhone MagSafe interface) support page.

At the very least, this is a walk down memory lane, but note the references to Macs with USB-C power adapters. Is there a purpose to this change? After all, what does MagSafe have to do with USB-C? Probably a simple edit and this is a tiny ado about nothing. But note the date on the bottom of the page. The change happened Tuesday.

File under mildly interesting.

Ian Sherr, CNET:

A London-based entrepreneur is hoping to set off a competition between the physical and digital worlds, putting a 1973 job application filled out by Steve Jobs up for auction. The form Jobs apparently filled out for an unspecified position at an unspecified company will be available to buy either as a purportedly authenticated physical good or in digital form, as a nonfungible token, or NFT.

Interesting to watch Steve’s original job application go up in value, from $18K in 2017, to $175K in 2018, then in March to $222K.

If you’ve not seen it before, go to the official auction web site and check out the high res scans.

A twist to this version of the auction is the addition of an NFT version of the application. Might be old man yelling at a cloud, but this feels like pure money grab. I thought the purpose of an NFT is to benefit an artist, allow them to keep ownership even as their work is resold again and again. But the artist, in this case, is Steve Jobs. And the seller is just a 3rd hand buyer/reseller. Am I missing the point?

Juli Clover, MacRumors:

Apple in July 2021 began offering beta firmware for the AirPods Pro, with the software available for Apple Developer program members.

I don’t recall past AirPods firmware being distributed in this way.

‌AirPods Pro‌ firmware betas are limited to developers and are quite tricky to install, with an installation guide available below.

And:

Installing the firmware in an unauthorized way can put the ‌AirPods Pro‌ into an unusable state that necessitates an out-of-warranty repair, so non-developers should not attempt to install the software.

And, most importantly:

Apple says that once the ‌AirPods Pro‌ firmware has been installed, it’s important not to put un-updated earbuds into the charging case because they may be updated with the firmware.

This firmware features “FaceTime Spatial Audio and Ambient Noise Reduction”.