As I’ve been exploring iOS 13 to write the just-released Take Control of iOS 13 and iPadOS 13, I’ve become concerned about what seems to be an increasingly frequent pattern in iOS software design. What finally pushed me over the edge into writing this article was documenting Apple Card’s user interface in Wallet, because I found myself typing the same character over and over and over… That’s right, I’m talking about the increasingly ever-present ellipsis ••• buttons in iOS (technically, we generally render a user-interface ellipsis in running text as three bullets to make them more easily seen). At WWDC 2014, Apple railed against the hamburger menu, and ever since it’s very vogue in Apple developer circles to make fun of the hamburger menu. I guess Apple’s major, magical innovation of replacing the three lines with three dots was enough for the company to adopt the concept completely. Of course, Apple has no taste and has no clue how to design good user interfaces these days, so they made it worse by using the button all over the place in weird locations and have it do different things in different places, but we’ll let that slide.
Apple announced today that it will offer genuine parts, diagnostic tools, and repair manuals to independent repair shops. It’s a bold move from a company that has lobbied against Right to Repair bills, and a concession to the reality of iPhone owners’ needs. But we still have questions. There’s some ‘scorpion and the frog’-ness to Apple’s major concession here, and I’d be incredibly wary of the fine print. On top of that, this seems like a classic case of Apple trying to prevent proper right to repair legislation from gaining even more steam by offering a stripped down version of what said legislation would demand of them, so they can point at this news and claim legislation isn’t needed.
Responding to criticism that it’s trying to steer consumers toward more expensive battery replacements, Apple today claimed that the “important battery message” added to iOS is there in the name of customer safety. It was recently discovered that when an iPhone’s battery is swapped out by a third-party repair shop that isn’t one of Apple’s authorized partners, the device’s battery health menu will show an ominous warning about being “unable to verify this iPhone has a genuine iPhone battery.” This can happen even if a genuine Apple battery is used; the warning stems from a micro-controller that only authorized technicians can properly configure. If iOS doesn’t detect the right micro-controller, it hides the usual battery health stats and displays the warning. Apple is fighting the right to repair movement and associated proposed laws tooth and nail, and this is just another salvo in the war the company is waging on its own customers.
Apple’s iOS Security Research Device program will be available to researchers with a track record of high-quality security research on any platform, so not every regular developer will be able to access these devices. The handsets will come with ssh, a root shell, and advanced debug capabilities, all designed to make it easier for security researchers to spot bugs. Nice initiative, I guess, but obviously anybody should be able to turn their iPhone into a device like this.
Not the most exciting or noteworthy piece of news, but still a fun little bit of nostalgia. Today at their 24th annual DevCon, FileMaker, Inc., maker of the world’s leading Workplace Innovation Platform, unveiled the start of a new chapter in the company’s history as Claris International Inc. Claris was created a spin-off from Apple in 1987, set up to own and developed MacPaint and MacWrite, which Apple had allowed to wither. The company eventually acquired FileMaker, and in 1990 Apple decided to keep Claris as a wholly-owned subsidiary. It’s been that way ever since, with the company renaming itself to FileMaker in 1998, after divesting everything else from the company. Since it has acquired a company called Stamplay, it’s no longer just shipping FileMaker, hence the rename back to Claris.
Here is my little thread about Lightning video adapters – also known as Haywire – which are actually computers that feature Apple Secure Boot and run Darwin kernel. I rarely link to Twitter threads, but this one is really good.
Apple and Intel have signed an agreement for Apple to acquire the majority of Intel’s smartphone modem business. Approximately 2,200 Intel employees will join Apple, along with intellectual property, equipment and leases. The transaction, valued at $1 billion, is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2019, subject to regulatory approvals and other customary conditions, including works council and other relevant consultations in certain jurisdictions. This was widely expected to happen, and will aid Apple in achieving independence from Qualcomm.
Apple’s mobile apps routinely appear first in search results ahead of competitors in its App Store, a powerful advantage that skirts some of the company’s rules on such rankings, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. The company’s apps ranked first in more than 60% of basic searches, such as for “maps,” the analysis showed. Apple apps that generate revenue through subscriptions or sales, like Music or Books, showed up first in 95% of searches related to those apps. This dominance gives the company an upper hand in a marketplace that generates $50 billion in annual spending. Services revenue linked to the performance of apps is at the center of Apple’s strategy to diversify its profits as iPhone sales wane. This should surprise absolutely nobody. Apple has a lot riding on becoming a successful services company, and it’s doing a lot of sleazy things already to try and convert iPhone buyers into wallets on legs from whom Cupertino can siphon monthly amounts. It’s only natural that the company would use its Appe Store search engine to promote its own services – something that will surely turn some heads in Europe. The article also has this fascinating little tidbit: Phillip Shoemaker, who led the App Store review process until 2016, said Apple executives were aware of Podcasts’ poor ratings. Around 2015, his team proposed to senior executives that it purge all apps rated lower than two stars to ensure overall quality. “That would kill our Podcasts app,” an Apple executive said, according to Mr. Shoemaker, who has advised some independent apps on the App Store review process since leaving Apple. The proposal was eventually rejected, Mr. Shoemaker said. So Apple pondered purging all apps with two stars or lower from the App Store… Only to realise a number of its own apps would be purged, too. Oh and in what I’m sure is entirely unrelated, many Apple apps inside the App Store no longer show a rating at all – special treatment only Apple apps get. If even 50% of this story is true, antitrust lawyers and investigators are going to have a field day with this.
Today, Apple released a round of minor updates for all of its supported devices, including iOS 12.4, macOS 10.14.6, watchOS 5.3, and tvOS 12.4 . As it turns out though, some older devices – devices that aren’t supported by the latest updates anymore – are getting some love as well. According to MacRumors, iOS 9.3.6 and iOS 10.3.4 are now available. The report states that the former is only available for cellular models of the iPad mini, iPad 2, and iPad 3, all devices that used an A5 processor or a variant of it. It’s worth noting that the third-generation Apple TV also got an update today, as that also included an A5 chipset. Always a nice surprise to see older devices getting some love.
All of this has led to a pretty vigorous (and fair) debate about whether Apple is still a design-led company, or whether its massive scale demands an operational focus that simply dictates design operates in a different way from the iMac and iPod eras. The view from inside Apple, for what it’s worth, is that design is still central to everything the company does, and the operations vs. design conflict is a media creation. But I think that debate misses the point in a serious way. There is but one important question for Apple to answer as it enters its next phase, one that will reveal everything about the company’s priorities and how it designs its products. Here it is: Will Apple compromise the user experience of the iPhone to sell services? …the answer is yes. Very much yes. It has already started.
News bomb from Apple PR: Apple today announced that Sir Jony Ive, Apple’s chief design officer, will depart the company as an employee later this year to form an independent design company which will count Apple among its primary clients. While he pursues personal projects, Ive in his new company will continue to work closely and on a range of projects with Apple. There’s a lot to dig into here, but for once, I fully agree with John Gruber’s take. First: Wow. There’ve been rumors for years that Ive had one foot out the door, that his last real interest at Apple was designing Apple Park, not Apple products. But it’s something else to see it. This angle that he’s still going to work with Apple as an independent design firm seems like pure spin. You’re either at Apple or you’re not. Ive is out. It makes me queasy to see that Apple’s chief designers are now reporting to operations. This makes no more sense to me than having them report to the LLVM compiler team in the Xcode group. Again, nothing against Jeff Williams, nothing against the LLVM team, but someone needs to be in charge of design for Apple to be Apple and I can’t see how that comes from operations. I don’t think that “chief design officer” should have been a one-off title created just for Jony Ive. Not just for Apple, but especially at Apple, it should be a permanent C-level title. I don’t think Ive ever should have been put in control of software design, but at least he is a designer. I don’t worry that Apple is in trouble because Jony Ive is leaving; I worry that Apple is in trouble because he’s not being replaced. Nothing to add.
Announced three weeks ago at WWDC, developer betas for iOS 13 and macOS 10.15 Catalina have been available ever since. Today though, the general public can finally begin testing them out, as they’re available through Apple’s public beta program. People who have been using the developer betas warn against installing the public betas for now, since they are quite unstable and buggy this time around.
John Khelt: It took Apple 6 years to correct its last mistake, the trashcan Mac Pro. Part of the reason for Apple taking so long to correct mistakes is so many apologists uncritically support them. The pundits don’t get how outrageously insulting it is to drown out and ignore what enthusiast/users say they want (e.g., Macs with upgradable slots) and instead decree what pundits think you need and should be happy with. That level of uncritical support helps Apple ignore problems. The pundits are sure they know best. Remember, they declared how the trashcan Mac was also for pros, rather than being critical about how it served neither pros nor enthusiasts. Despite being wrong then, they’re happy to reassert the same now. The pundits can’t seem to think beyond wanting to curry Apple favor. Being an Apple sycophant has its privileges after all. Maybe they’ll get to interview some Apple exec where they’ll ask banal questions and incessantly fluff Apple plastic talking points. And if they don’t play ball and choose to call Apple out on mistakes, maybe they wont get the next Apple event invite. But maybe, if more pundits could think for themselves, and more of them would speak up for enthusiasts and users, then just maybe, Apple would be motivated to do a better job. Right on the money.
And then there’s SwiftUI, which may be a harder concept for regular users to grasp, but it’s a huge step on Apple’s part. This is Apple’s ultimate long game—an entirely new way to design and build apps across all of Apple’s platforms, based on the Swift language (introduced five years ago as yet another part of Apple’s long game). In the shorter term, iOS app developers will be able to reach to the Mac via Catalyst. But in the longer term, Apple is creating a new, unified development approach to all of Apple’s devices, based in Swift and SwiftUI. Viewed from this perspective, Catalyst feels more like a transitional technology than the future of Apple’s platforms. Apple’s own SwiftUI page provides more details. This is the future of application development across all of Apple’s platforms, so if you have a vested interested in the Apple world, you’d do good to get yourself acquainted with it.
The all-new Mac Pro is an absolute powerhouse with up to 28-core Intel Xeon processors, up to 1.5TB of ECC RAM, up to 4TB of SSD storage, up to AMD Radeon Pro Vega II Duo graphics with 64GB of HBM2 memory, and eight PCIe expansion slots for maximum performance, expansion, and configurability. The new design includes a stainless steel frame with smooth handles and an aluminum housing that lifts off for 360-degree access to the entire system. The housing also features a unique lattice pattern, which has already been referred to as a cheese grater, to maximize airflow and quiet operation. I love this machine. Not because I need it, will buy it, or even understand the kind of professional workflows people use these for – but because I’ve always had a soft spot for high-performance, no-compromises professional workstations. Whether it be the Sun or SGI UNIX workstations of the ’90s, the PowerMac and Mac Pro machines of the early 2000s, or the less flashy but still just as stunning powerhouses HP, for instance, makes with their Z line of workstations, such as the Z8. This new Mac Pro fits that professional workstation bill more than probably any PowerMac or Mac Pro before it, and I love it for it. While not nearly as insane or crazy, it reminds me of SGI’s most powerful MIPS workstation, the crazy SGI Tezro, which had a list price of tens of thousands of dollars. In that light, I’m not even remotely surprised that this is an expensive machine – anybody who has spent even a modicum of time in the world of professional workstations knows how expensive these machines are, and why. In short, if you are appalled by the price, this machine is not for you. Apple also unveiled a new professional display, and while the specifications look impressive, the stand that’s sold separately for 999 dollars has already become a meme. I’ll leave the display talk to those of us who know more about the kinds of demands professionals place upon displays.
I wasn’t available for about a week due to emigrating from The Netherlands to Sweden, so I’ve clearly got some catching up to do when it comes to Apple’s WWDC keynote. Apple detailed iOS 13 for the iPhone, the renamed iPadOS for the iPad, macOS Catalina for the Mac, updates for watchOS and tvOS, and so much more. I’m not going into great detail on everything here, since you’ve most likely already delved deep into these new releases if you’re interested. I do wish to mention that I’m insanely happy with mouse and multiwindow support for the iPad – it turns my iPad Pro into a very useful and powerful device, and I can’t wait for the first keyboards with built-in trackpad to come onto the scene. I’ll keep the other big announcement – the new Mac Pro – for a separate item and discussion thread.
When John Bumstead looked at listings for his products on Amazon.com in early January, he was waiting for the guillotine to fall. A small online business owner from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Bumstead specializes in refurbishing and selling old MacBooks, models he typically buys from recyclers and fixes up himself. But on January 4th, Bumstead’s entire business dwindled into nonexistence as his listings were removed from the platform due to a new policy limiting all but the largest companies and specially authorized providers from selling Apple products. Apple made a special deal with Amazon to basically exterminate all third party repair services and used Apple product sellers that aren’t specifically approved by Apple. The result is a sharp increase in pricing on used Apple products sold on Amazon – exactly what Apple wants, of course – and smaller, non-Apple approved resellers are dying off. Charming. And people actually claim Apple has morals and values.
The Supreme Court is letting an antitrust lawsuit against Apple proceed, and it’s rejected Apple’s argument that iOS App Store users aren’t really its customers. The Supreme Court upheld the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision in Apple v. Pepper, agreeing in a 5-4 decision that Apple app buyers could sue the company for allegedly driving up prices. “Apple’s line-drawing does not make a lot of sense, other than as a way to gerrymander Apple out of this and similar lawsuits,” wrote Justice Merrick Garland Brett Kavanaugh. Apple’s argument that users of the App Store aren’t Apple’s customers was completely bonkers to begin with, and obviously solely designed in service of Apple’s new services narrative. Remember – with the new Apple-as-a-Service, Apple’s isn’t really interested in just selling you a product – the company wants to milk you for all you’re worth. Giving customers any sort of stronger position in the App Store and similar services only serves to detriment Apple’s services story to Wall Street.
The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) will investigate whether Apple abuses the position it has attained with its App Store. ACM will do so following indications that ACM has received from other app providers over the course of its market study into app stores. That market study has been published today. Henk Don, Member of the Board of ACM, explains: ‘To a large degree, app providers depend on Apple and Google for offering apps to users. In the market study, ACM has received indications from app providers, which seem to indicate that Apple abuses its position in the App Store. That is why ACM sees sufficient reason for launching a follow-up investigation, on the basis of competition law.’ This will be a long, protracted legal battle – in multiple European countries.
9to5Mac has a long list of features that are coming to iOS 10.3. The biggest change is definitely multiwindow on the iPad, which iOS sorely needs. There are many changes coming to iPad with iOS 13, including the ability for apps to have multiple windows. Each window will also be able to contain sheets that are initially attached to a portion of the screen, but can be detached with a drag gesture, becoming a card that can be moved around freely, similar to what an open-source project called “PanelKit” could do. These cards can also be stacked on top of each other, and use a depth effect to indicate which cards are on top and which are on the bottom. Cards can be flung away to dismiss them. This definitely will make iOS a far more mature and capable operating system, and I can’t wait to try this out on my iPad Pro. All it needs now is proper mouse support, and we got ourselves a proper operating system.