The Love Era 

Brent Simmons:

This is the age of writing iOS apps for love. […]

You the indie developer could become the next Flexibits. Could. But almost certainly not. Okay — not.

What’s more likely is that you’ll find yourself working on a Mobile Experience for a Big National Brand(tm) and doing the apps you want to write in your spare time.

If there’s a way out of despair, it’s in changing our expectations.

There is so much that could and should and will be said about this. But the bottom line is that indie development for iOS and the App Store just hasn’t worked out the way we thought it would. We thought — and hoped — it would be like the indie Mac app market, only bigger. But it’s not like that at all.

Whatever Happened With Apple’s PrimeSense Acquisition? 

Interesting piece by Matt Sayward on where Apple might be heading as the world’s leading camera company:

In November 2013, Apple acquired an Israeli 3D-sensor company named PrimeSense for somewhere in between a reported 350,000,000 and 360,000,000 dollars. As Apple acquisitions go, that’s a biggie. Only Beats (the foundation of Apple Music at $3bn), NeXT (the deal that brought Steve Jobs back for $400m), and AuthenTec ($390m that manifested itself in Touch ID) were certifiably bigger buys.

And yet, two years on, we still can’t really say what happened with PrimeSense’s technology with any sense of fortitude.

On this point:

Last November, on another episode of The Talk Show, John Gruber dropped a unusually heavy hint about what he’d heard about the upcoming set of iPhones that will debut in Q3 of this year:

The specific thing I heard is that next year’s camera might be the biggest camera jump ever. I don’t even know what sense this makes, but I’ve heard that it’s some kind of weird two-lens system where the back camera uses two lenses and it somehow takes it up into DSLR quality imagery.

Well, I had a think about this. And I might have something feasible.

For what it’s worth, I think I might have been wrong about the timing on this. If Apple sticks with the tick-tock schedule and unveils iPhone 6S and 6S Plus updates in September, the new dual-lens camera is probably a 2016 iPhone thing, not a 2015 iPhone thing. I should have realized this all along.

Anyway, rumors aside, Sayward has some interesting speculation on why Apple might go this route.

‘Improves Networking Reliability’ 

OS X 10.10.4 shipped today, and as expected based on the developer betas, Discoveryd is gone, replaced by an updated version of good old mDNSresponder. At WWDC, word on the street was that Apple closed over 300 radars with this move. Not dupes — 300 discrete radars.

‘It’s All About Curation, Curation, Curation’ 

Christina Warren’s first look at Apple Music:

The real heart of Apple Music is the For You tab. This is basically your music homescreen. When you open the section for the first time, you’re asked to go through a discovery exercise. This was lifted directly from Beats Music and it’s one of the best discovery tools I’ve used over the years. […]

It’s hard for me to over-stress how much I like For You. From the very beginning, the recommendations in playlists and albums that the app showed me were dead-on accurate, reflecting my various musical interests.

Straight out, I was given a recommendation of a Taylor Swift love ballad playlist and albums from The Kinks, Sufjan Stevens, Elliot Smith, The Shins, Miguel and Drake. So basically my musical brain.

Apple Music on Tumblr 

They’re on Twitter and Instagram, too.

Also: gorgeous use of the San Francisco font family on this page.

Jim Dalrymple Talks to Eddy Cue and Jimmy Iovine About Apple Music 

Jim Dalrymple:

“As part of this ecosystem, what if there was a station that didn’t have any of those rules and didn’t serve any of those masters,” said Iovine. “What if it just took anything that was exciting, whether it be on Connect or a new record out of Brooklyn or Liverpool.”

“Or whether it was rock or hip hop,” added Cue.

So one of those genres could literally follow the other on Beats 1 Radio.

“It works,” said Iovine. “And it works because the DJ is in the middle explaining how it works. DJs give you context.”

So what does Beats 1 Radio compete with? Nothing, according to Iovine.

“It doesn’t compete with anything that’s out there because there’s never been anything like this,” said Iovine.

See also: Jim’s first look at Apple Music.

‘Between Kickstarter’s Frauds and Phenoms Live Long-Delayed Projects’ 

Really enjoyed this feature by Casey Johnston for Ars Technica on Kickstarter projects that fall far behind schedule:

By this point, fairy-tales about successful funding and horror stories of projects that end in abject failure or corruption have led most of us to recognize the volatility of any Kickstarter project. But lost between these two extremes is a long, sometimes confusing road that is invisible, and sometimes even inaccessible, to the mildly interested passersby. In today’s Kickstarter Web storefronts, projects appear so singular to their backers that any unplanned activity can seem more erratic and suspicious than it actually is. In most cases, though, delays are normal.

This underreported grey area between funded and shipped (or sailed) isn’t necessarily something to loathe. Rather, it highlights many of the reasons crowdfunding is worth protecting — even if some of the practice’s worst contradictory forces are at play.

Uber Acquires Part of Bing’s Mapping Assets, Will Absorb Around 100 Microsoft Employees 

Alex Wilhelm, reporting for TechCrunch:

Uber will acquire assets from Microsoft Bing, including roughly 100 employees focused on the product’s image collection activities. In short, Uber is absorbing data-collection engineers from Microsoft to bolster its own mapping work.

The companies confirmed the transaction with TechCrunch, but each declined to name the terms of the agreement. Microsoft handing Uber part of its operating expenses is minor, given the financial scale of the firms. The technology transfer is far more interesting.

Interesting in light of my discussion with Horace Dediu about the state of the maps industry on this week’s episode of The Talk Show — Horace specifically mentioned Uber as the next major player in the game.

Apple Recalls Beats Pill XL Speaker 

Apple:

Apple has determined that, in rare cases, the battery in the Beats Pill XL Speaker may overheat and pose a fire safety risk. This product has been sold worldwide since January 2014 by Beats, Apple, and other retailers.

Customer safety is always a top priority at both Apple and Beats, and we have voluntarily decided to recall this product. If you have a Beats Pill XL Speaker, please stop using it and follow the process below to send it to Apple. In exchange, we will provide you with an Apple Store credit or electronic payment in the amount of $325 USD or approximate equivalent in local currency.

This Week’s Mac Power Users 

Speaking of podcasts, Katie Floyd and David Sparks were kind enough to have me as their guest on Mac Power Users this week:

Katie and David sit down with John Gruber of Daring Fireball to discuss the origins of his site, how he finds and publishes the news, and how he uses his Mac and iOS.

The Talk Show: ‘They Buy a Hole in the Wall’ 

New episode of my podcast, The Talk Show, featuring special guest and ace Apple analyst Horace Dediu.

Brought to you by these excellent sponsors:

  • Backblaze: Unlimited, unthrottled online backup for Macs.
  • Fracture: Your photos printed directly on pure glass. Use code “daringfireball” and save 15 percent off your first order.
  • Casper: An obsessively engineered mattress at a shockingly fair price. Save $50 on any order using code “thetalkshow”.
Intercom: Connect With Your Mobile Users 

My thanks to Intercom for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed. Intercom allows developers to see their users, the actions they take, and communicate with them in a single integrated platform.

Intercom allows developers to collect product feedback and engage with their users with personalized, targeted in-app messages. Visit Intercom to learn more — they have a great intro video right on their home page — and get started for free.

iMore’s Apple Music FAQ 

A few words from Serenity Caldwell on Apple’s imminent new music platform.

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal: ‘If We Want to Save Some Money Let’s Just Get Rid of the Court’ 

Catherine Thompson, reporting for TPM:

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) on Friday suggested doing away with the Supreme Court during a speech in Iowa that followed the court’s historic ruling on same-sex marriage.

“The Supreme Court is completely out of control, making laws on their own, and has become a public opinion poll instead of a judicial body,” he told the crowd, as quoted by The Advocate newspaper. “If we want to save some money let’s just get rid of the court.”

I was going to crack a joke about Jindal being more of a clown candidate for president than Donald Trump, but the more I think about it, the less funny this seems. It’s just outright pandering to bigotry and, especially, ignorance — from the sitting governor of one of our states.

It’s one thing to disagree with a Supreme Court decision. That’s part of politics and civic discourse. It’s another to argue that an entire branch of government lacks legitimacy. Keep in mind, too, that Republican nominees have held a majority on the Supreme Court for four decades. For fun, imagine the reaction from these Republicans if Justice Kennedy had been appointed to the Court by a Democratic president, instead of by Ronald Reagan.

DuckDuckGo Adds Live Scores for Every MLB Game 

One feature at a time. Just keep chipping away.

The Deck 

There are a few slots on The Deck available in July and August. Need to get your product in front of millions of curious folks? Drop Jim Coudal a line for a nice price for a new advertiser. Tell him I sent you.

‘Hooray for Obamacare’ 

Speaking of momentous Supreme Court decisions, here’s Paul Krugman on the Affordable Care Act:

Put all these things together, and what you have is a portrait of policy triumph — a law that, despite everything its opponents have done to undermine it, is achieving its goals, costing less than expected, and making the lives of millions of Americans better and more secure.

Knockoff Beats Used in Teardown? 

Remember that widely-linked but controversial teardown of a pair of $199 Beats headphones last week? Looks like they were actually a pair of knockoffs. This just keeps getting weirder.

‘They Ask for Equal Dignity in the Eyes of the Law. The Constitution Grants Them That Right.’ 

To me, that line from Justice Anthony Kennedy’s landmark 5-4 decision today says it all. More:

The nature of injustice is that we may not always see it in our own times. The generations that wrote and ratified the Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment did not presume to know the extent of freedom in all of its dimensions, and so they entrusted to future generations a charter protecting the right of all persons to enjoy liberty as we learn its meaning.

App Camp for Girls 3.0 

Jean MacDonald:

App Camp For Girls is on a mission: we encourage girls to pursue app development as a career by teaching them how to make iPhone apps in a fun, creative summer camp program under the mentorship of women developers. We are shifting the gender balance in our industry. App Camp 3.0 is the next stage in bringing the program to more girls in more locations!

They’re hoping to expand to four new locations this year, but they need your help during the last week of their fundraising campaign for the year. Daring Fireball is already committed as a $1,000 Community Sponsor. Like with any of these crowdfunding campaigns, though, any amount, no matter how small, can help. I think App Camp for Girls is a wonderful idea, well-executed, and I’d love to see the DF readership help put them over the top for funding this year.

See also: This cool video from my pals at Story and Pixel with lots of footage from last year’s App Camp for Girls in Portland.

Apple Music to Pay Two-Tenths of a Cent Per Stream During Trial Period 

Ben Sisario, reporting for the NYT:

For each song that is streamed free, Apple will pay 0.2 cent for the use of recordings, a rate that music executives said was roughly comparable to the free tiers from services like Spotify. This rate does not include a smaller payment for songwriting rights that goes to music publishers; Apple is still negotiating with many publishers over those terms, several publishing companies confirmed on Wednesday.

According to the music executives, these rates would apply to all labels.

For independents, the negotiations with Apple are seen as a victory, allowing thousands of small labels to be part of Apple Music and earn money when people listen to their songs.

Maybe I’m vastly underestimating just how many songs are going to be streamed from Apple Music, but my gut feeling is that there aren’t many artists who are going to make serious money at just two-tenths of a cent per song streamed.

Let’s say Apple Music generates 100 million plays per day from customers on the free trial. At $0.002 per play, that’s $200,000 in payments to the artists and record labels, or about $6 million per month. That’s couch change for Apple.

Maybe I’m way off, and the number of plays will be more like 1 billion per day?

Retro ThinkPad Concept 

David Hill, vice president of identity and design for Lenovo:

For a while now I’ve been exploring the idea of introducing a very unique ThinkPad model. Imagine a ThinkPad that embodies all the latest technology advances, however, embraces the original design details in the strongest way possible. I’ve been referring to the concept as retro ThinkPad. Imagine a blue enter key, 7 row classic keyboard, 16:10 aspect ratio screen, multi-color ThinkPad logo, dedicated volume controls, rubberized paint, exposed screws, lots of status LED’s, and more. Think of it like stepping into a time machine and landing in 1992, but armed with today’s technology. Although not for everyone, I’m certain there’s a group of people who would stand in line to purchase such a special ThinkPad model.

Lenovo should totally do this.

iOS 9 and Safari View Controller: The Future of Web Views 

Federico Viticci:

In a technical session at WWDC, Apple detailed how Safari View Controller has been closely modeled after Safari with consistency and quick interactions in mind. Safari View Controller looks a lot like Safari: when users tap a web link in an app that uses Safari View Controller, they’ll be presented with a Safari page that displays the address bar at the top and other controls at the bottom or next to it — just like the regular Safari on the iPhone and iPad. There are two minor visual differences with Safari: when opened in Safari View Controller, the URL in the address bar will be grayed out to indicate it’s in read-only mode; and, a Safari button is available in the toolbar, so that users will be able to quickly jump to Safari if they want to continue navigation in the full browser.

Apple Music Strikes Deal With Thousands of Indie Artists 

Shirley Halperin and Lars Brandle, reporting for Billboard:

Apple Music, the hardware giant’s soon-to-launch streaming service, has landed an eleventh-hour coup, striking deals with the independents’ digital rights organization Merlin and with Martin Mills’ indie powerhouse Beggars Group, sources tell Billboard. Label group PIAS has also announced it has signed on.

In a letter sent to Merlin members, CEO Charles Caldas writes, “I am pleased to say that Apple has made a decision to pay for all usage of Apple Music under the free trials on a per-play basis, as well as to modify a number of other terms that members had been communicating directly with Apple about. With these changes, we are happy to support the deal.”

We’ve got a whole week before the “eleventh hour”, but, still, if this issue of paying artists during the free trial was the sole roadblock, it makes me wonder why it took until Taylor Swift’s open letter for Apple to rethink this. Shouldn’t this have been obvious months ago?

‘Everyone in Buenos Aires Is Communicating by Voice Memo Now’ 

Kari Paul, writing for Motherboard:

On any given block in Buenos Aires, you are likely to see someone speaking into their phone, but not on it; talking to someone, but not necessarily with anyone. I recently visited the city, and was struck by the fact that it seemed like all the citizens were walking around expressively talking to themselves. In reality, most people are perpetually sending voice memos to one another.

The phone call has long been a thing of the past when it comes to daily communication, but in Argentina, mobile phone users are increasingly turning to voice memos instead of texting to communicate.

Interesting how something like texting can evolve in very different ways in different countries. I think I’ve only received like three or four voice memo texts ever.

Samsung PCs Disable Windows Update 

Owen Williams, writing for The Next Web:

That software does something slightly sinister in the background, however: it disables Windows Update. A post by Microsoft MVP, Patrick Barker, details a small application that’s quietly installed in the background to block updates.

The app, conspicuously named Disable_Windowsupdate.exe, is installed automatically without the owner’s knowledge. According to a support representative, it’s there to stop the computer from automatically downloading drivers from Windows Update that could be incompatible with the system or cause features to break.

Glad to hear that the Windows PC experience remains as fun as ever.

Inside a Pair of Beats Headphones 

Avery Louie of Bolt:

One of the great things about the solo headphones is how substantial they feel. A little bit of weight makes the product feel solid, durable, and valuable. One way to do this cheaply is to make some components out of metal in order to add weight. In these headphones, 30% of the weight comes from four tiny metal parts that are there for the sole purpose of adding weight.

Fascinating.

Update: Sounds like this teardown is widely regarded as baseless clickbait. Marco Arment says the metal pieces are hinges at stress points, and are made from metal for durability. And here’s a YouTube video that makes the point even more clearly.

Update 2: It gets worse — looks like this is a teardown of a pair of knockoff Beats, not actual Beats.

Google Promoting New Android Wear Watch Faces 

This post epitomizes the differences between Google and Apple.

Apple Changes Course, Will Pay Artists During Apple Music Free Trials 

Eddy Cue had a busy Sunday.

Apple’s Justification for Apple Music’s Three-Month Free Trial Period: Slightly Higher Payments 

Peter Kafka, writing last week for Recode:

Here are the real numbers, according to Robert Kondrk, the Apple executive who negotiates music deals along with media boss Eddy Cue: In the U.S., Apple will pay music owners 71.5 percent of Apple Music’s subscription revenue. Outside the U.S., the number will fluctuate, but will average around 73 percent, he told Re/code in an interview. Executives at labels Apple is working with confirmed the figures. […]

Apple won’t pay music owners anything for the songs that are streamed during Apple Music’s three-month trial period, a bone of contention with music labels during negotiations for the new service. But Kondrk says Apple’s payouts are a few percentage points higher than the industry standard, in part to account for the lengthy trial period; most paid subscription services offer a free one-month trial.

Not sure a 1.5 percent difference justifies two extra months of free service (compared to the de facto industry standard one-month free trial), but it’s not nothing.

Taylor Swift on Apple Music’s Three-Month Free Trial 

Taylor Swift, explaining why she’s withholding her latest album from Apple Music:

I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company. […]

Three months is a long time to go unpaid, and it is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing. I say this with love, reverence, and admiration for everything else Apple has done. I hope that soon I can join them in the progression towards a streaming model that seems fair to those who create this music. I think this could be the platform that gets it right.

Not sure what the solution is here, but her position seems perfectly reasonable. The problem is, Apple is leading the industry in pushing for streaming music to be entirely behind a paywall. The entire point of the free trial is to get more people to pay for streaming in the long term.

Also raises the question of just how many other top-shelf music acts will not be available on Apple Music when it launches. After the WWDC keynote, I simply could not get a straight answer from anyone at Apple about just how much of the iTunes Music library will be available on Apple Music when it launches. Part of that might be that they’re still negotiating with some labels and top-shelf acts, but I can’t help but suspect part of it is that they know they’re not going to have everything, and they don’t want to talk about that.

Answers 

My thanks to Crashlytics for again sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Answers, their mobile analytics platform. Answers has gone from zero to being the second-most-used mobile analytics tool in under a year, and it’s not hard to see why: it’s gorgeous, reliable, and powerful.

Check them out for the inside story of how and why they built Answers.

Facing the Music 

Still catching up from last week. Here’s Dr. Drang on the Apple Music segment of the WWDC keynote:

The new Apple Music service/app/thing occupied the celebrated “one more thing” position, and it was painful to watch. Apple used five presenters — Jimmy Iovine, Trent Reznor, Drake, Zane Lowe, and Eddy Cue — to try to explain what Apple Music is and why we should care, and they all failed. Of the five, Reznor and Lowe acquitted themselves best, but that’s probably because they were recorded, not live. I can imagine Iovine being very persuasive one-on-one or in a small group, but he certainly wasn’t impressive on the big stage. He never gave the impression that the words he was speaking were his. Drake seemed to think he could just wing it during his section; he’s obviously used to adoring fans applauding every off-the-cuff remark he makes on stage. Which leaves us with poor Eddy Cue, who’s going to bear the brunt of the criticism.

The Talk Show: ‘Schiller Did Not Have to Put Up With This Bullshit’ 

New episode of America’s favorite three-star podcast, with special guest Guy English. We make a valiant but failed effort to cover all of the technical/developer news from last week’s WWDC. Among the topics we did hit: app thinning, Bitcode, WatchKit 2.0, CloudKit (and opening it up to web developers), Swift 2.0, Metal coming to the Mac, accessibility and low-level support for right-to-left languages, iOS 9’s new low-power mode, and more.

Brought to you by these great sponsors:

  • Harry’s: High quality razors and blades for a fraction of the price. Save $5 off first purchase with code “TALKSHOW”.
  • Hover: The best way to buy and manage domain names. Save 10 percent off first purchase with code “ELCAPITAN”.
  • Igloo: The intranet you’ll actually like.
  • Squarespace: Build it beautiful. Use code “GRUBER” for 10% off your first order.
Today Is National Martini Day 

Enjoy:

Apple Discontinues Original iPad Mini 

Jeremy Horwitz:

Apple’s discontinuation of the iPad mini leaves the remaining iPads as a completely 64-bit family, all using either A7 and A8X processors rather than the iPad mini’s aging A5. It also means that all remaining iPads have Retina displays and unified Wi-Fi + Cellular models.

‘A Papal Message That Spares No One’ 

Elizabeth Kolbert, writing for The New Yorker on Pope Francis’s new encyclical on climate change and the environment:

Whether the Pope’s message will have any influence — on the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, on the delegations currently trying to devise an international climate agreement, or on anyone else — remains to be seen. Up to now, the sowers of discord have done a good job blocking action on climate change, and, if the leak of the encyclical is any guide, they are still hard at work. Meanwhile, as @Pontifex tweeted to his 6.3 million followers Thursday, “The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth.”

I enjoyed Kontra’s observation:

We’re living in a country where the Pope likely couldn’t be head of several Congressional committees because he’s not unscientific enough.

Accessibility Is a User-Attracting Feature 

Craig Hockenberry on the results of Apple featuring Twitterrific on their “Popular Apps Using VoiceOver” page on the App Store. Looks like a bigger spike than when the Apple Watch launched.

Ad Blocking Irony 

PC Magazine ran a piece by Eric Griffith headlined, “Apple iOS 9 Ad-Blocking Explained (And Why It’s a Bad Move)”.

Here is what it looks like on an iPhone. Here’s what it looks like on a Mac. Ridiculous.

I run a business almost entirely based on advertising. I am, thus, naturally disinclined to support ad-blocking. But from the outset, I’ve followed the advertising version of the golden rule: Present ads to readers (and podcast listeners) that you yourself would not be annoyed by. Advertisers and publishers who present user-hostile ads should not be surprised when the users fight back.

(For a detailed look at WebKit Content Blockers, see Benjamin Poulain’s introductory article at the Surfin’ Safari blog.)

The Rise of DuckDuckGo 

John Paul Titlow, writing for Fast Company:

The premise of DuckDuckGo is simple: It doesn’t track your searches or any other online activity. Whereas Google has built a $66 billion dollar-a-year business around knowing more and more about its users’ every click, tap, and scroll, DuckDuckGo prefers ignorance. It doesn’t have user logins, it doesn’t log your search history or IP address. Even if they wanted to hand over data about your search history, they couldn’t. That data just doesn’t exist.

Instead of profiting from heaps of user data, DuckDuckGo has opted for a simpler business model: Old-school search ads that pair the keywords in people’s queries with relevant ads placed by the highest bidder. Weinberg says the company also makes money from affiliate links to sites like Amazon and eBay.

I’ve been using DuckDuckGo as my primary search engine in Safari for months now, and the results just keep getting better. I do have to switch to Google for some queries, but that’s happening less and less.


On Jony Ive’s Promotion to Chief Design Officer

Ben Thompson’s take, published yesterday, makes several interesting points. He astutely observes that Ive’s newly-promoted lieutenants, Alan Dye (UI design) and Richard Howarth (industrial design), both were featured prominently in recent feature articles granting access to Apple executives:

The message again, is clear: when Ive took over software, Dye was there.

Indeed, taken as a whole, this entire episode is a masterful display of public relations: plant the seeds of this story in two articles — ostensibly about the Watch — that provide unprecedented access to Apple broadly and Apple’s design team in particular, and happen to highlight two designers in particular, neither of whom had any public profile to date (kind of — as John Gruber and I discussed on The Talk Show — Dye is a polarizing figure in Apple circles). Then, after a presumably successful Watch launch, announce on a holiday — when the stock market is closed — that these two newly public designers have newly significant roles at Apple.

A “masterful display of public relations” feels exactly right. With one exception, though: clarifying the degree of Ive’s ongoing involvement in Apple’s design work.

[A brief interpolation on Alan Dye as a “polarizing” figure within Apple: It’s not about his personality (a la Scott Forstall, or maybe even Tony Fadell), but rather Dye’s background in branding and graphic design. The Dye-led redesigns of iOS 7 and OS X Yosemite — and the new design of the Apple Watch OS — are “flat” in large part because “flat” is how modern graphic design looks. Suffice it to say, there were (and remain) people within Apple who consider this trend a mistake — that what makes for good graphic design does not necessarily make for good user interface design, and often makes for bad user interface design. Another way to look at it is that when Ive consolidated UI design under his purview, he and Dye more or less assembled a new team. This sort of thing invariably ruffled feathers from the prior UI designers in the company — especially those who worked under Forstall on the iOS team.

Anyway, personality-wise, I’ve heard nothing but good things about Dye — that he’s anti-political, pro-designer, and easy to get along with. End interpolation.]

There are two basic ways to read this news. The first is to take Apple at its word — that this is a promotion for Ive that will let him focus more of his attention on, well, design. That he’s delegating management administrivia to Dye and Howarth, not decreasing his involvement in supervising the actual design work. The second way — the cynical way — is that this is the first step to Ive easing his way out the door, and that his new title is spin to make the news sound good rather than bad.

In short: is this truly a promotion for Ive, or is it (as Thompson punctuated it) a quote-unquote “promotion”?

One reason for skepticism is the odd way the story was announced, via a feature profile of Ive (and to a lesser degree, Tim Cook) by Stephen Fry. It was an odd article and an even odder way for Apple to announce the news. One line from the article caught many observers’ attention (boldface emphasis added):

When I catch up with Ive alone, I ask him why he has seemingly relinquished the two departments that had been so successfully under his control. “Well, I’m still in charge of both,” he says, “I am called Chief Design Officer. Having Alan and Richard in place frees me up from some of the administrative and management work which isn’t … which isn’t …”

“Which isn’t what you were put on this planet to do?”

“Exactly. Those two are as good as it gets. Richard was lead on the iPhone from the start. He saw it all the way through from prototypes to the first model we released. Alan has a genius for human interface design. So much of the Apple Watch’s operating system came from him. With those two in place I can …”

I could feel him avoiding the phrase “blue sky thinking”… think more freely?”

“Yes!”

Jony will travel more, he told me. Among other things, he will bring his energies to bear — as he has already since their inception — on the Apple Stores that are proliferating around the world. The company’s retail spaces have been one of their most extraordinary successes.

From my own first take on the news:

Part of the story is that Ive is going to “travel more”, which I take to mean “live in England”.

That seems like an odd jump to make — from “travel more” to “live in England” — but it was based on two factors: the news being announced in a London newspaper, and the widespread speculation that Ive and his wife had been thinking about moving to England with their children since 2011. That speculation is entirely based on this Sunday Times piece on Ive’s compensation — behind a paywall, alas, but the Daily Mail summarized the Times’s report thus:

However, despite the ‘rock star’ status Essex-born Ive has in the design world, with his work lauded by peers and used by millions around the world, the newspaper said his desire to ‘commute’ from his £2.5million manor house in Somerset was being opposed by bosses at the technology company, who want him to stay in the U.S.

He and wife Heather, who met while they were studying at Newcastle Polytechnic, are said to want to educate their twins in England.

Ive, like all of his colleagues in Apple senior management, is intensely private. Neither he, nor Apple, to my knowledge has ever said a word confirming or denying the Times’s claim that he wanted to spend more time in England and send their children to school there.

[Update: I failed to remember this bit from Ian Parker’s recent New Yorker profile of Ive:

Ive told me that he never planned to move: he and his wife bought the house for family vacations, and sold it when it was underused. But he also connected the sale to what he called inaccurate reporting, in the London Times, in early 2011, claiming that Apple’s board had thwarted his hope of a relocation; he did not want to be shadowed by gossip.

So he has refuted it. File it under spin if you will, but it doesn’t make sense to me for Ive to say this to The New Yorker if his true intentions were to take steps to do just the opposite a few months later.]

Having thought about this some more, though, today, in 2015, we can maybe call bullshit on this aspect of the Times report. His twins are now 10 years old. They’re already being educated — in California. He’s clearly not bolting from Apple any time soon — even if this is a precursor to him leaving eventually, we’re talking about a few years down the road. And “a few years” from now his children will be even older. Again: Ive may be winding down, and he may, someday, return to England. But the time is running out — if it hasn’t already — for his family to return to England to raise their children there. I don’t ever expect Jony Ive to drop the “aluminium”, but he and his family are Californians.

A simpler way to look at this would be to see Ive having been promoted to, effectively, the new Steve Jobs: the overseer and arbiter of taste for anything and everything the company touches. One difference: Jobs, famously, was intimately involved with Apple’s advertising campaigns. Cook, in his internal memo, wrote: “Jony’s design responsibilities have expanded from hardware and, more recently, software UI to the look and feel of Apple retail stores, our new campus in Cupertino, product packaging and many other parts of our company.” But, still, it’s hard not to read Cook’s description of Ive’s responsibilities as pretty much matching those of Steve Jobs while he was CEO.

Lastly, a title can just be a title, but Apple has only had three C-level executives in the modern era (excepting CFOs, whose positions are legally mandated): Jobs (CEO, duh) Cook (COO under Jobs, now CEO), and now Jony Ive (CDO).1 It’s possible this title is more ceremonial than practical, but Tim Cook doesn’t strike me as being big on ceremony. Apple doesn’t exactly throw around senior vice-presidentships lightly, either, but a new C-level title is almost unprecedented.

[Update, 28 May 2015: Here’s a big exception I’d forgotten about: Avie Tevanian.]

I can see Cook-Ive as a sort of titular reversal of the Jobs-Cook C-level leadership duo. Cook oversees operations and “running the company”; Ive oversees everything else. So they created a new title to convey the authority Ive already clearly wielded, and promoted Dye and Howarth, his trusted lieutenants, to free him from administrative drudgery. I could be wrong, and we’ll know after a few years, but that’s my gut feeling today. 


  1. One small oddity. As of this writing it’s been over two days since Ive’s promotion was announced, but Apple’s “Executive Profiles” page still hasn’t been updated. Usually Apple has things like this staged and ready to go. Update: A few readers have suggested that Apple technically can’t update this page yet, because the new titles aren’t effective until July 1. Makes sense. So maybe file this entire footnoted “oddity” under “never mind”. ↩︎︎


On the Apple Watch Interaction Model and the Digital Crown

Steven Berlin Johnson finds the digital crown button convoluted:

If you press this button, these are the potential events that will transpire on your Watch’s screen:

  • You’ll be taken to the “watch face” view.
  • You’ll be taken to the “home screen” app view.
  • You’ll stay in the “home screen” view, but it will re-center on the “watch face” app.
  • You’ll move from a detailed view of a notification back to the notifications summary.

His proposed solution:

Fortunately there is an easy fix for this confusion, which is to streamline the Digital Crown so that it focuses exclusively on the Watch’s two homes. Pressing the Digital Crown should simply toggle you back and forth between the “watch face” and the “home screen.” (Its other functionality could all be achieved through other means; for instance, you can already re-orient the “home screen” simply by dragging your finger across the Watch’s screen.) That’s still more complicated than the iPhone home button, but it’s the kind of thing most users would pick up in a matter of minutes using the Watch. And it has a conceptual clarity that is sorely lacking in the current design.

His whole piece is worth reading, because it aptly describes, almost exactly, how I felt about Apple Watch after using it for just a few days. Several of his complaints, which I would have agreed with in my first few days of Apple Watch use, I no longer consider problems.1 And even now, with seven weeks of daily Apple Watch experience under my belt, when I first read his suggestion for simplifying the digital crown button, I was nodding my head in agreement. But when I sat down to write about it, I realized there’s really only one small thing I would suggest Apple change: the last of its four roles noted by Johnson — its function as a hardware “back” button while looking at the detail view for a notification.

Otherwise, I would keep the functionality of the crown button as-is:

  • If the watch display is off, pressing the crown wakes it up.
  • If the watch is showing your glances or notifications, pressing the crown takes you back to the watch face.
  • If the watch is displaying your watch face, pressing the crown switches you to the home screen showing all your apps.
  • If you’re using any app, pressing the crown takes you back to the home screen, with the view centered on the app you just left.
  • If the watch is on your home screen and the clock app is not centered, pressing it will re-center.
  • If the watch is on the home screen, centered on the clock, pressing it will switch you to the watch face.

That looks more complicated than it is. And I’m even leaving out at least one other scenario: when you’ve put your home screen into edit mode — where you can delete and rearrange the installed apps — pressing the crown takes you out of editing mode.

Here’s a better way to think about it — and without thinking about it, the reason why I think most people aren’t frustrated or confused by the crown button after a week or so. It’s best to think of Apple Watch as having two modes: watch mode, and app mode.

You do not need to understand this to use the watch. Most Apple Watch owners will never really think about this. But this idea of two modes is central to understanding the design of the overall interaction model.

Watch mode:

  • Shows your watch face by default.
  • Swipe down for notifications.
  • Swipe up for glances.
  • Tap a complication — date, weather, activity — to launch its corresponding app.
  • Tap a glance to open to the corresponding app.
  • Force tap to switch or edit watch faces.

App mode:

  • Shows your home screen, centered on the clock app, by default.
  • No notification list or glances.
  • Tap an app to open it.
  • Long-tap on the home screen to open editing mode.

Watch mode is where you take quick glances at information and notifications; app mode is where you go to “do something”. Watch mode is where most people will spend the majority — perhaps the overwhelming majority — of their time using Apple Watch. App mode is a simple one-level hierarchy for “everything else”.

If you think about Apple Watch as having these two modes, the role of the crown button is clear:

  • From the “default” view of either mode, the crown button switches you to the other mode.
  • From anywhere else, the crown button takes you to the default view of the current mode. (There’s a slight exception here in app mode: if you’re using an app, pressing the crown first takes you to the home screen centered on the app you were just using, and you have to press it again to center the home screen on the clock app.)

Consider: What happens when you press the digital crown button while in, say, the Weather app? The answer is: It depends how you got there. If you start from the home screen and tap the Weather app icon, the digital crown button returns you to the home screen. If you start from the watch face, though, and launch the full Weather app by tapping the Weather glance, then the digital crown button returns you to the watch face.

This sounds confusing. And if you’re expecting Apple Watch’s digital crown button to work like iOS’s home button, it is not the expected behavior. But in practice, I think it works very well. I suspect this arrangement wasn’t designed in advance but was instead the result of many months of play-testing by the designers on the Apple Watch team.

Again, I agree with Johnson that if you’re looking at a notification detail view, the crown should take you all the way back to the watch face. You have to tap on screen to get into a notification detail view, and they all have a large “Dismiss” button at the bottom if going “back” is what you want. “Back” just doesn’t feel right for the digital crown button. It should simply mean go home in the current mode, or, if you’re already home, switch to the other mode.

I don’t mind the “re-center and re-zoom on the clock app” extra action for the digital crown button. To me, it’s directly analogous to the way the home button takes you back to the first home screen in iOS. More importantly, you don’t have to go back to the watch face (or, as I’m referencing it here, watch “mode”). That just happens automatically when you lower your wrist and stay away from the watch for 30 seconds. You don’t have to “clean up” and go back to the watch face manually. It just happens automatically when you stop using the watch. A few special apps behave otherwise — Workout and Remote, so far — but in both of those cases that makes sense. And, yes, there is a setting (General → Activate on Wrist Raise → Resume To) that allows you to always return to the last-used app, but I don’t see why anyone would use that unless they stubbornly insist upon treating their Apple Watch like a miniature iPhone. Another way to think of this option is as a toggle between treating “watch mode” and “app mode” as the primary mode.

Another insight: the side button exists outside either mode. It behaves the same way no matter which mode you’re in, no matter what you’re doing. One press of the side button brings up your Friends circle. A double-press initiates Apple Pay. In either case — Friends circle or Apple Pay — pressing (or double-pressing) the digital crown button dismisses the side button mode you entered. 


  1. For example, the idea that you should be able to swipe up from anywhere — not just from the watch face — to see glances. A lot of people seem to have this complaint early on. The thought had occurred to me, too. But it clearly wouldn’t work. In other contexts, swiping your finger up on the display scrolls the content, including the home screen, where you need to pan around to see all your apps. Apple would only enable glances globally if they forced you to use the digital crown for scrolling, or, if they enabled glances only as a swipe up from the very bottom edge of the display. Notification Center and Control Center work that way on iOS, which allows them not to conflict with regular old scrolling and panning. But I’m nearly certain that the watch display is too small to make that distinction. You’d find yourself scrolling when you wanted to bring up Glances and bringing up Glances when you wanted to scroll. It’d be maddening. The Watch OS “back” shortcut — swiping from the left to go back in a view hierarchy — is an edge gesture, but that’s OK because if you miss the edge, nothing happens. ↩︎


Facebook Introduces Instant Articles

Michael Reckhow, Facebook product manager:

As more people get their news on mobile devices, we want to make the experience faster and richer on Facebook. People share a lot of articles on Facebook, particularly on our mobile app. To date, however, these stories take an average of eight seconds to load, by far the slowest single content type on Facebook. Instant Articles makes the reading experience as much as ten times faster than standard mobile web articles.

A few thoughts:

  • This looks beautiful. Clearly it’s built by the team that did Facebook Paper, with things like the way you tilt the phone to pan around large photos. The knock against Paper is that it only “works” if your friends and family post beautiful, well-crafted content to their Facebook feeds, and, well, that’s not the case for most people. Instant Articles, on the other hand, is all about professionally-produced content.

  • I’m intrigued by the emphasis on speed. Not only is native mobile code winning for app development, but with things like Instant Articles, native is making the browser-based web look like a relic even just for publishing articles. If I’m right about that, it might pose a problem even for my overwhelmingly-text work at Daring Fireball. Daring Fireball pages load fast, but the pages I link to often don’t. I worry that the inherent slowness of the web and ill-considered trend toward over-produced web design is going to start hurting traffic to DF.

  • There’s also a convenience advantage over per-publication native apps. People are already checking Facebook many times a day on their phones. When they encounter these Instant Articles, they’re one tap and a moment away from reading them. People just don’t check many apps — check the New York Times, check National Geographic, check BBC News — that just isn’t how people use their phones. At best, standalone per-publication apps can get our attention through notifications, but notifications are bothersome in a way that something scrolling through your Facebook feed is not. And an aggregator of content from multiple sources — like, say, Flipboard, to name one obvious competitor — is asking users to check an extra app every day. There are only so many apps people will check for “new stuff” every day.

  • Like Paper, Facebook Instant Articles is iPhone-only, and from what I can tell, Facebook hasn’t said a word about Android support. (Paper is even North America US-only — Instant Articles are supported worldwide.) Many are presuming it’s forthcoming, but Paper remains iOS-only. For the moment at least, Facebook isn’t really treating “mobile” as their first-class target platform — they’re treating the iPhone as their first-class target platform. (Instant Articles isn’t even available on iPad yet.)

  • I’ve been skeptical about this whole thing from the publishers’ angle. Seems dangerous to cede control over your content to a company like Facebook. But it sounds like the business aspects are very favorable. Publishers can use their own ads and keep 100 percent of the money; if Facebook sells the ads, they use a 70/30 App Store-style split of the money. And there’s no exclusivity. 


Ads via The Deck Ads via The Deck