Posts in Five for Friday
Jony Ive Loves Orange and More

Two: AT&T, Time Warner, and the Need for Neutrality

"The first thing to understand about the decision by a federal judge to approve AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner, over the objection of the U.S. Department of Justice, is that it is very much in-line with the status quo: this is a vertical merger, and both the Department of Justice and the courts have defaulted towards approving such mergers for decades."

Ben Thompson, Stratechery


Three: In China Trade War, Apple Worries It Will Be Collateral Damage

"Apple’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, may be the leader of the world’s most valuable public company, but lately he has had to act a lot like the tech industry’s top diplomat.

"Last month he visited the Oval Office to warn President Trump that tough talk on China could threaten Apple’s position in the country. In March, at a major summit meeting in Beijing, he called for “calmer heads” to prevail between the world’s two most powerful countries."

 Jack Nicas and Paul Mozur, New York Times


Four: Here are over 150 new features and changes in iOS 12 for iPhone and iPad

"The biggest feature for iOS 12 for most users will likely be the huge increase in performance on older devices. We tested this ourselves on a variety of devices, and saw a substantial increase in speed in many aspects —but not all, and not on all devices."

 Andrew O'Hara, Apple Insider


Five: How Square Made its Own iPad Replacement

If you know the company Square, it's probably because you've paid in a store using a Square “stand,” a dock that supports a tablet, or you've swiped your card through Square Reader, a smartphone dongle that processes payments. These products have a soothing, decidedly Apple-y aesthetic, from the simple dongle to the all-white stand that typically houses an iPad. But since late last year, Square has been quietly selling its own custom-made tablet, the Square Register, a $999, Android-based system. And the company has taken an obsessive approach to designing the product.

Lauren Goode, Wired


Bonus: A Pro

Photo by Oleg Laptev on Unsplash

Siri Shortcuts, The Scooter Economy and More

One: Shortcuts: A New Vision for Siri and iOS Automation

"In my Future of Workflow article from last year (published soon after the news of Apple's acquisition), I outlined some of the probable outcomes for the app. The more optimistic one – the "best timeline", so to speak – envisioned an updated Workflow app as a native iOS automation layer, deeply integrated with the system and its built-in frameworks. After studying Apple's announcements at WWDC and talking to developers at the conference, and based on other details I've been personally hearing about Shortcuts while at WWDC, it appears that the brightest scenario is indeed coming true in a matter of months."

Federico Viticci, MacStories


Two: The Scooter Economy

As I understand it, the proper way to open an article about electric scooters is to first state one’s priors, explain the circumstances of how one came to try scooters, and then deliver a verdict. Unfortunately, that means mine is a bit boring: while most employing this format wanted to hate them, I was pretty sure scooters would be awesome — and they were!

Ben Thompson, Stratechery


Three: A New Era of Frankensoftware is Upon Us

"Last Week's Announcement that Apple intends to make it easy for developers to create Mac variants of iPhone appsbecame something of a matter of semantics. Would it ever merge the two operating systems? Are the apps being ported to macOS? They're certainly not being emulated."

Lauren Goode, Wired


Four: Apple's AirPods are an Omen

"The moment I put the Apple AirPods in my ears, I feel like I’ve already dropped them in the toilet. They are so small and slippery. The mere act of removing these precious, wireless ear buds from their lozenge-shaped case makes them feel like a futuristic cure to unknown ills. I am late to adopt them, so I indulge a marvel. I take one out of an ear; this time I feel like I’m sure to ingest it, eventually, mistaking it for a space-age apparatus for wellness or transhumanism. My AirPods, I am convinced, are not long for this world."

Ian Bogost, The Atlantic


Five: Inside Amazon's $3.5 Million Competition to make Alexa Chat Like a Human

"Onstage at the launch of Amazon’s Alexa Prize, a multimillion-dollar competition to build AI that can chat like a human, the winners of last year’s challenge delivered a friendly warning to 2018’s hopefuls: your bot will mess up, it will say something offensive, and it willbe taken offline. Elizabeth Clark, a member of last year’s champion Sounding Board team from the University of Washington, was onstage with her fellow researchers to share what they’d learned from their experience. What stuck out, she said, were the bloopers."

James Vincent, The Verge


Bonus: Finder

Being Trapped in the "Feed", the Making of Obscura and More

One: We are all trapped in the “Feed”

"Every afternoon, during lunch, I open up YouTube, and I find myself marveling at the sheer dumbness of its recommendations. Despite having all this viewing data of mine, world’s second most popular search engine is dumb as a brick. It shows me propaganda channels from two ends of the political spectrum. It surfaces some inane celebrity videos. It dredges up the worst material for me — considering I usually like watch science videos, long conversations and interviews, and photography-focused educational videos."

Om Malick,


Two: The Bill Gates Line

"Two of the more famous military sayings are 'Generals are always preparing to fight the last war', and 'Never interrupt your enemy while he is making a mistake.' I thought of the latter at the conclusion of last Sunday’s 60 Minutes report on Google..."

Ben Thompson, Stratechery


Three: Obscura 2 Announcement 

Ben gives us a peaking to the design, development and business decisions behind his new camera app Obscura 2. Get Obscura 2 for iPhone.

"Obscura 2 was created from scratch. I threw out every preconception I had with Obscura 1, to rethink what a camera app should be. Design work on O1 originally began not long after the announcement of iOS 7, and since then app design trends have shifted in new directions."

Ben McCarthy, Medium



Four: Second Life: Rethinking Myself Through Exercise, Mindfulness, and Gratitude

"Here's what I've learned about cancer as a survivor: even once you're past it, and despite doctors' reassurances that you should go back to your normal life, it never truly leaves you. It clings to the back of your mind and sits there, quietly. If you're lucky, it doesn't consume you, but it makes you more aware of your existence. The thought of it is like a fresh scar – a constant reminder of what happened. And even a simple sentence spoken with purposeful vagueness such as "We need to double check something" can cause that dreadful background presence to put your life on hold again."

Federico Viticci, MacStories

Global Accessibility Awareness Day and more

One: For Apple, this year’s Global Accessibility Awareness Day is all about education

My good friend and cohost of Accessible, Steven Aquino, had the chance to interview Tim Cook for this piece.

"Following Apple’s education event in Chicago in March, I wrote about what the company’s announcements might mean for accessibility. After sitting in the audience covering the event, the big takeaway I had was Apple  could “make serious inroads in furthering special education as well.” As I wrote, despite how well-designed the Classroom and Schoolwork apps seemingly are, Apple should do more to tailor their new tools to better serve students and educators in special education settings. After all, accessibility and special education are inextricably tied."

Steven Aquino, TechCrunch


Two: The Moat Map

It's super hard to pull out a good overview quote from Ben's work. He's such a good writer, but honestly, you should just go read the whole thing. This is a wonderful piece.

Ben Thompson, Stratechery


Three: New Privacy Rules Could Make This Woman One of Tech’s Most Important Regulators

"If Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t know who Helen Dixon is, he will soon.

"From an unassuming townhouse in the Irish capital, Ms. Dixon, the country’s data protection commissioner, leads an agency that was once a bureaucratic backwater. Employees share offices and have few of the perks available in Facebook’s building nearby: The main free amenities here are water, coffee and tea."

Adam Satariano, The New York Times


Four: The Apple Services Machine

"Apple's services business is remarkably strong yet surprisingly mysterious. A closer look at Apple Services reveals an apparatus, which can easily qualify as a Fortune 100 company, that isn't what it seems from the outside. Apple isn't becoming a services company focused on coming up with a myriad of ways to milk existing users. Instead, Apple's services strategy primarily reflects the company's long-held ambition of becoming a leading content distribution platform."

Neil Cybart, Above Avalone


Five: Flagship Killers Now Cost as Much as the Flagships They Tried to Slay

"In 2010 Google released the Nexus One, a phone that started a line of budget priced phones from the company that became more and more positioned as “affordable” options compared to the flagships out there. In 2014 a new startup called OnePlus launched the One phone that was supposed to be a “flagship killer.” In 2018 we know that the flagship phones from companies like Apple and Samsung are doing quite well and these lines of phones from Google and OnePlus have remained relatively niche devices."

Matt Birchler, Birchtree


Photo from @tim_cook

The Jony Ive Interview, Microsoft Build vs Google i/o and More

One: Apple, Influence, and Ive

“Sir Jonathan Ive, Chief Design Officer of Apple, Inc., is sitting across from me at a seamless white oak table. We’ve met a few times before, and I know he cares about watches. He must, right? But I’ve never actually asked him. So I do. And thank God, he does – he recounts a tale of buying an Omega Speedmaster Professional in the early ’90s. I exhale, because the hypothesis of this interview, at least in my mind (likely not in Apple’s), is that the watch industry and its all-too-vocal supporters have got it all wrong. Jony, the creator of what is, by at least one definition, the number one watch on Earth, is a friend, not a foe. But, like any great question of power and influence, it’s not so simple."

Benjamin Clymer, HODINKEE


Two: Tech's Two Philosophies

"...That there are two philosophies does not necessarily mean that one is right and one is wrong: the reality is we need both. Some problems are best solved by human ingenuity, enabled by the likes of Microsoft and Apple; others by collective action. That, though, gets at why Google and Facebook are fundamentally more dangerous: collective action is traditionally the domain of governments, the best form of which is bounded by the popular will. Google and Facebook, on the other hand, are accountable to no one. Both deserve all of the recent scrutiny they have attracted, and arguably deserve more..."

Ben Thompson, Stratechery


Three: Google's software design is having a reformation

"Material Design launched in 2014, and it was mostly thought of as a new design language for Android — though it later came to the web and iOS. It had a bold idea: there should be a physicality to software design not unlike the physicality of paper. It should follow some rules that are almost physical, with layers of magic paper and strictures for how different software elements like buttons and drawers should behave."

Dieter Bohn, The Verge


Four: Microsoft Build & Google i/o: Compare and Contrast

"It would make an excellent title for a school essay, don’t you think? As much as this week was a bit of a logistical nightmare due to the two developer conferences overlapping, it was a great opportunity to directly compare the approach these two companies are taking on what has become a core area of their business: AI."

Carolina Milanesi


Five: Some Thoughts on Google Photos vs Apple Photos

"Google I/O is as good as any time to take stock of the disparate and polar opposite ideologies of Google and Apple when it comes to machine learning and privacy. And nowhere it is more evident than in their respective photos apps: Google Photos and Apple Photos."

Om Malik,


Bonus: Lego Hands

Photo from HODINKEE

Designing the Macintosh Smile, Dating with Facebook and More

One: The Woman Who Gave the Macintosh a Smile

“Every fifteen minutes or so, as I wrote this story, I moved my cursor northward to click on the disk in the Microsoft Word toolbar that indicates “Save.” This is a superstitious move, as my computer automatically saves my work every ten minutes. But I learned to use a computer in the era before AutoSave, in the dark ages when remembering to save to a disk often stood between you and term-paper disaster. The persistence of that disk icon into the age of flash drives and cloud storage is a sign of its power. A disk means “Save.” Susan Kare designed a version of that disk, as part of the suite of icons that made the Macintosh revolutionary—a computer that you could communicate with in pictures."

Alexandra Lange, The New Yorker


Two: Dating with Facebook: What's love got to do with it?

"In Hindi, there is a saying that no matter what you do, you can’t unbend a dog’s tail. I was reminded of that saying when I read the news that Facebook was launching a dating app, to make a love connection. While on the surface it might impact the fortunes of Tinder, the dating app that changed the rules of modern dating, a conclusion reflected in the stock of Match Group which promptly nosedived."

Om Malik,


Three: UI/UX case study for the New York Times app

"As a part of my day job as an industry analyst, I spend a lot of time with company executives talking through our firm’s research on consumer behavior with technology, which often touches on issues of privacy. It is in these conversations that I frequently hear the adage “consumers don’t care about privacy.” The reasoning behind this phrase is as follows: Because people post pictures of themselves or their family on social media–sometimes doing weird things–they must not care that much about their privacy. But it’s not that simple. After doing years of qualitative and quantitative studies on this subject, I think we need to reframe how we think about consumer privacy."

Johny Vino, UX Collective


Four: What Apple's Education Announcements Mean for Accessibility

"From an accessibility news standpoint, this week’s Apple event in Chicago was antithetical to the October 2016 event. At the latter event, Apple  began the presentation with a bang — showing the actual video being edited using Switch Control in Final Cut. Tim Cook came out afterwards to talk some about Apple’s commitment to serving the disabled community before unveiling the then-new accessibility page on the company’s website..."

Steven Aquino, TechCrunch


Five: Divine Discontent: Disruption's Antidote

"It is nothing but a number, no different than 999,999,999,999 for all practical purposes, but we humans are not practical creatures: we attach importance to all kinds of silly things, round numbers chief amongst them. To that end, an increasingly popular parlor question in the stocks as entertainment business is which company will be worth $1 trillion first?"

Ben Thompson, Stratechery

Privacy, Robots, Workflow and More

One: Open, Closed, and Privacy

It was eight years ago next month that Vic Gundotra, then-VP of Engineering at Google, delivered a blistering attack on Apple for not being open..."

Ben Thompson, Stratechery


Two: The Real Problem with Apple’s iCloud Storage Options (hint, it’s not price)

"As I’ve expressed time and time again, every single paid tier of iCloud storage gets you more bang for your buck than the competition. Despite what I hear from time to time, iCloud is a great deal if you’re looking for some online storage. I think Apple’s free tier (5GB) is totally reasonable for a file backup and sync service, and their paid options are pretty excellent."

Matt Birchler, Birchtree


Three: Most Facebook Users Don't Expect Much Privacy

"You’ve probably heard the saying, “consumers don’t care about privacy,” which I’ve always found to be an odd phrase since it seems like a logical fallacy.

"As a part of my day job as an industry analyst, I spend a lot of time with company executives talking through our firm’s research on consumer behavior with technology, which often touches on issues of privacy. It is in these conversations that I frequently hear the adage “consumers don’t care about privacy.” The reasoning behind this phrase is as follows: Because people post pictures of themselves or their family on social media–sometimes doing weird things–they must not care that much about their privacy. But it’s not that simple. After doing years of qualitative and quantitative studies on this subject, I think we need to reframe how we think about consumer privacy."

Ben Bajarin, Fast Company


Four: How to get workflows for your iPhone and iPad

"Workflow for iPhone and iPad is Apple's powerful automation app, letting you create or get other people's workflows that you can use to speed up tasks on your devices.

"But you don't have to be able to create workflows to benefit from them – you can add them from the Gallery or import them from other people, just run those, and still get a lot of benefit from using Workflow."

Matthew Cassinelli, iMore


Five: Amazon Has a Top-Secret Plan to Build Home Robots

"Ten years ago, Amazon introduced the Kindle and established the appeal of reading on a digital device. Four years ago, Jeff Bezos and company rolled out the Echo, prompting millions of people to start talking to a computer."

Mark Gurman and Brad Stone

An iPhone X Owners Study, Uber Drivers Entrepreneurs and More

One: Top Takeaways From Studying iPhone X Owners

“Last month, we conducted a study on iPhone X owners. Most of the respondents in our survey were from the US, but we did have pockets of respondents from many parts of Europe. Our study intentionally focused on the early adopter part of the market due to this cohort being one of the larger majority groups of iPhone X owners. We knew focusing on this cohort would yield the highest volume of owners and we were right. That being said, we did capture enough non-early adopters to generate some insights on mainstream views of iPhone X, but for this article, I will focus on early adopters."

Ben Bajarin, Tech.pinions


Two: Are Uber drivers entrepreneurs?

"Benchmark Capital’s Bill Gurley has been at the eye of the storm called Uber, that included cutting the cord with its lightning rod CEO Travis Kalanick, in a public manner. He also has been the service’s biggest champion. In this Uber-long (no pun intended) piece, he makes a case for Uber as a positive force for the drivers. Gurley, like a great analyst that he once was, makes a case for the positive impact of Uber. This one paragraph sums up the entire thesis..."

Om Malik


Three: China’s Economic Numbers Have a Credibility Problem

"China’s gross domestic product grew 6.8 percent in the first quarter, smack on its pace in the preceding quarter, which was unchanged from the quarter before that. It’s a well-established pattern: Since 2015, China’s quarterly growth figures haven’t varied by more than 0.1 percentage point on a year-on-year basis. That contrasts with the U.S., where swings of a full percentage point from quarter to quarter aren’t uncommon."

Enda Curran, Bloomberg

I Fundamentally Believe That My Time at Reddit Made the World a Worse Place
— Dan McComas, Former Reddit Product Head

"Over the last few months, Select All has interviewed more than a dozen prominent technology figures about what has gone wrong with the contemporary internet for a project called “The Internet Apologizes.” We’re now publishing lengthier transcripts of each individual interview. This interview features Dan McComas, the former senior vice-president for product of Reddit and the founder and CEO of Imzy, a community-focused platform."

Noah Kulwin, New York Magazine

The Facebook Current, Commercial Virtual Reality and More

One: The Facebook Current

“I thought something was going to get done,” lamented a friend, in reference to yesterday’s Senate hearing that featured a single witness: Facebook Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. “This was the moment of reckoning, but it just turned out to be a whimper — it’s just for show.”

"The sentiment seemed widespread on tech and media Twitter: there was a lack of specificity in terms of questions about privacy (this allowed Zuckerberg to turn nearly every question about the ownership of data to a discussion about user interface controls that limit where data is shown to other Facebook users), plenty of dodged questions (every time there was a question about the data Facebook generates about users beyond what they themselves enter into the system Zuckerberg needed to “check with his team”), and bad questions that presumed Facebook sells data, letting Zuckerberg run out the clock at least three times by explaining the basics of Facebook’s business model (this is precisely why I have been so outspoken about the problem of perpetrating this falsehood: it lets Facebook off the hook)."

Ben Thompson, Stratechery


Two: Giving Tweetbot a More Accessible Design

"...I’ve spent the last several weeks back on Tweetbot, because I still have great fondness and respect for it. More to the point, however, I wanted to revisit the app and see how it compares to the official app. I’ve identified a few bullet point enhancements Tapbots that would greatly increase its accessibility..."

Steven Aquino


Three: As Consumer Virtual Reality Lags, Commercial Interest Grows

"The Virtual Reality headset market has taken its fair share of lumps in the last 18 months, as the industry has struggled to find the right combination of hardware, software, and pricing to drive consumer demand. But while consumers are proving a hard sell, many in the industry have found an increasing number of companies willing and eager to try out virtual reality for a growing list of commercial use case. A recent IDC survey helps shed some light on this important trend."

Tom Mainelli, Tech.pinions


Five: The Case for Custom Watch Faces

"The Apple Watch is not in trouble by any means, but it’s going down a slightly dubious path. Every few months there’s some sort of story about a popular app removing its Apple Watch app. It’s greeted by some as more evidence that the Apple Watch is failing, while others rationalize it as “an experience that doesn’t make sense on the Watch.”

Matt Bircher, Birchtree