Friday Morning News

Originally published at: https://appletalk.com.au/2019/07/friday-morning-news260719/

And just like that, Apple has announced its acquisition of the majority of Intel’s smartphone modem business. If you’re wondering how much One Instagram, or US $1 billion is worth in 2019, it’s equivalent to 2,200 Intel employees, intellectual property, and equipment, and leases, once the transaction closes in Q4 2019. The arrangement will still allow Intel to develop modems for non-smartphone applications, and as Apple’s SVP of hardware technologies Johnny Srouji says, "will help expedite our development on future products and allow Apple to further differentiate moving forward".

Billboard has posted a profile of Oliver Schusser, the current Apple Music lead after Jimmy Irvine transitioned into a consulting role. Schusser is an Apple veteran, having spent 15 years building and expanding iTunes to a worldwide scale and audience, and now he’s in charge of one of the largest music streaming services in the world. His opening quotes in the Billboard piece speak volumes about the kind of work he’s seeking to do as the lead of Apple Music, but Billboard has a lot to say about the history of Apple Music, too.

Analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has latched onto the idea that the Apple blogosphere loves its keyboard rumours, so he has posted a new report that solely focuses on Apple keyboards. According to Kuo, every Mac laptop refresh from 2020 will include a new keyboard, perhaps the most important feature that people have been waiting for, yours truly included. But before all of that, the 16-inch MacBook Pro that we should see later this year will come with a more reliable keyboard design, as previously rumoured.

Production estimates of this year’s iPhone come in at 75 million, with capacity for up to 80 million if demand calls for it. While that figure is roughly the same as last year, the word on the street is that iPhone sales growth has largely stabilised, which isn’t entirely unexpected given smartphone market saturation has been with us for a few years now.

New iPhone marketing in Germany underlines Apple’s approach to security and privacy, with billboards containing slogans like "the gate to the world, not your information" and "reveals as little about hamburgers as hamburgers". They’re all part of the same "Privacy, that’s iPhone" campaign that launched in the US and elsewhere earlier this year.

A third party has run the numbers and come up with the fact that Apple is the top corporate user of solar energy in the US. That’s not entirely unsurprising, given that Apple has vast farms of solar power that amount to 393MW of solar capacity. One such farm in California alone generates up to 130MW of that power, most of which is consumed by Apple Park, not to mention the other sites it has around the US that power its data centres.

The winners of this year’s iPhone photography awards have been announced, with winners from all over the world. While Italy’s Gabriella Cigliano took out the grand prize, the first, second, and third places are also worth looking at and reading the stories behind the photos.

MacStories has a review of Flighty, an pro-level flight tracking app. There’s extensive detail about flights for frequent fliers, although you’ll want to make sure you use all of the features before ponying up for the relatively expensive subscription of $14/month, with a slightly cheaper annual subscription also available.

It’s not often that you see computing catalogs from 30 years ago, but the NeXT Software and Peripherals catalog from Fall 1989 has been posted to Archive.org for your viewing pleasure and a trip down memory lane, if you were around during that time.

Those who purchased the iPhone X in 2017 were left with something of a choice last year: do they upgrade to the iPhone XS or XS Max, or wait one more year for whatever is coming next? That year is now upon us, and there’s a choice once again: with the knowledge that 5G support will be coming out next year, do you upgrade this year and take a chance on not upgrading next year? With iPhone prices being what they are, not everyone can afford to upgrade every year, so you must choose. One author at 9to5Mac says they’ll buy the iPhone 11 this year after buying the iPhone X, all because of one particularly cool feature enabled by the additional ultra-wide angle camera.

I gotta tell you I’m a little bit torn. The article talks the talk and the people in it clearly know their stuff. But this is from the opening paragraph:

…why the service he oversees hasn’t gone all-in on algorithms. “That’s just not the way we look at the world,” continues Schusser. “We really do believe that we have a responsibility to our subscribers and our customers to have people recommend what a playlist should look like and who the future superstars are.”

Well I hope they take that “algorithms are evil” approach for the For You section because it’s just terrible. Let me give you an idea of how the For You section works.

Me: I play a Willie Nelson song
For You:

  • Oh you must really like Willie Nelson, here’s 20 other Willie Nelson albums to listen to
  • Willie Nelson is Country, you must really like country. Here’s a whole list of Country playlists
  • Willie Nelson was really popular in the 70s. Here’s a bunch of playlists from the 70s
  • The friends you don’t really have but you added for some modicum of social interaction are listening to Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, The Hamilton Soundtrack

This happens every single day. Sometimes it gets it right and there’s so much choice you can’t play it all. But come the next day, that’s all wiped and it’s a new list of stuff based on something you listened to.

At least at launch it was a limitless scroll list of recommendations from prior days.

Anyway, that’s me on my soapbox saying Spotify’s algorithms are exceptional and now that I’m on Apple Music I am discovering fewer new artists. I hope to god the attitude they’ve taken with their playlists will now be extended to the For You section.

Yeah, Spotify’s algorithms definitely seem like part of its appeal. I see HEAPS of tweets from Spotify users saying how awesome the recommendations in the Discover Weekly playlist are, but nothing from Apple Music users.

But maybe that’s part of it? Maybe Apple Music users don’t use the curated suggested playlists, so there’s not as much praise to be had? I know I certainly don’t — I know what I like, so can usually go and find it, but having to listen to a whole bunch of average tunes to find someone I like seems like zero-sum game to me.

At the same time, I can see where the Apple Music team are coming from, and it seems to be the same place as the App Store team, the Apple News team, etc, etc. Algorithms can’t solve everything, and a lot of the time, just because something is popular, doesn’t mean it’s particularly good. Notoriety is a thing, after all.

Some interesting reading from Marco Arment on recommending podcasts, which discusses a similar topic:

BUT (again), outside of straight-up better recommendations, I can see why Spotify appeals to the masses.

  • it does social better
  • it’s hard to beat free
  • I think the Spotify iOS app is better than the Apple Music app Apple includes, but this is more of a personal preference thing
  • I think there’s a slightly better ecosystem around Spotify than there is around Apple Music

All said, I think Apple Music still has a way to go before it unsurps Spotify completely. That’s totally fine by me, as hopefully that means Apple Music will keep on improve. Competition is good!

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As a moderately frequent flyer and flight-tracking aficionado, I could not get my head around this app. Nothing was intuitive, with swipes and incomprehensible icons littered all around the place. The expensive subscription will only really appeal to the very frequent flyers, and there are a few other, cheaper, options available in the App Store that offer just as many notification options as Flighty.