Apple: thanks for making the iPhone more expensive, dear journalists

Apple knows well how to play with expectations. They usually disappoint when they launch products, but the disappointment isn’t as big as it could be thanks to big and small media sites.

Those sites (like The Unshut) are happy to talk about every single possible and hypothetical detail on the future Apple smartphones, and all those rumors that keep appearing on the news (I wonder how much of them are leaked by Apple itself) prepare us both for the good and the bad.

Surprises are overrated, Apple would say.

It happened last year with the absence of the headphone jack: weeks before the unveiling of the iPhone 7/Plus every tech journalist in the world had expressed his opinion on that decision. When Apple finally confirmed that omission, we were already prepared for that.

That’s big.

The same will happen with the iPhone 8: we already know for sure that it will cost over $1,000, something that would be a bigger deal if it was revealed as a new fact on the launch day. It won’t be a surprise anymore: Apple already knows they can put this price tag to the new iPhones, because we will be prepared for that. From Appleinsider (and others):

Kuo goes on to estimate an “iPhone 8” price tag starting at $1,000, reiterating a figure first divulged in a report this month. The price hike is attributed to a 50 to 60 percent bump in production costs compared to the anticipated “iPhone 7s” LCD models.

Apple should thank all tech journalists for talking so loud about them. They should thank me, for that matter. So there you have it, Apple: you’re welcome.

Source: Apple’s ‘iPhone 8’ to replace Touch ID home button with ‘function area

The ARM MacBook that will (never?) come

Apple Inc. is designing a new chip for future Mac laptops that would take on more of the functionality currently handled by Intel Corp. processors, according to people familiar with the matter.

The new report comes from Bloomberg, and there we can find  (not much) information about the codenamed T310, an ARM chip that would be the next Apple’s step on that theoretical path to abandon Intel chips some day.

The T310 could be used to enable a new low-power mode on Apple’s MacBooks, but it’s not exactly clear if the chip will in fact replace the Intel chip on every front in that scenario, or will limit itself to certain low-power tasks. Apple has already integrated a T1 ARM chip to manage the Touch Bar, and the new one could be use for a “Power Nap” mode that:

allows Mac laptops to retrieve e-mails, install software updates, and synchronize calendar appointments with the display shut and not in use

This is interesting in its own right, and would mean that that ARM chip is indeed capable of running macOS apps that (again, this is relevant) are theoretically coded on an x86 instruction code, not an ARM one. I wonder if there is some kind of emulation here, or those apps have two binaries to run in either processor when needed.

Both scenarios are interesting, and could lead to that future in which the ARM MacBook will, indeed, come. It seems that will take more time than we thought it would, though.

Source: Apple Said to Work on Mac Chip That Would Lessen Intel Role – Bloomberg

The iPhone, 10 years later

Ten years ago mobile phones were exactly that. Phones to talk. The few who dared to bring to the market some other device with the “smartphone” tag tried to bring us something that seemed good, but that neither in usability nor in user experience was acceptable (Hello Nokia N95).

But of course, we didn’t know then.

And then the iPhone showed up. An absolutely disruptive and revolutionary product. One that would end up transforming everything and everyone, although we could not know that on that cold January 9, 2007 in San Francisco. Many only saw the gadget for what it was. Few could see its possibilities. They didn’t even care too much about its shortcomings, because we all wanted one to be able to amaze ourselves. I ended up buying one nine months later, even though it was not possible to make calls (officially) at that time in Spain.

It did not matter if other mobile phones had 3G, or better camera, or GPS, because none of them could overcome the iPhone’s user interface and compete with a vision that for the first time turned the phone into a real pocket PC, one in which you could make a lot of good stuff. That sparked something all over the world: industry, users, developers. It was a magical moment.

Clic.

And yet, I’m always amazed at how little we talk about the other great disruption of the iPhone. Without that particular thing, this device would not have had the relevance it had. That second disruption was the one that really set apart the iPhone not as a device, but as a platform.

It’s ironic to see how those original iPhones didn’t have native applications: instead of that Apple made use of web applications in an operating system that did not even have its own name (“iPhone runs OS X” was the sentence used on their press releases). The second disruption, which completed the concept, would take another year to arrive. It launched with the iPhone 3G, that product I spoke about a day before it was launched with one of those predictions logical but invisible to many people:

The big revolution in the new iPhones will not be the hardware they include, no. It’s cool to be able to enjoy 3G connectivity and even GPS, but the really important part of these models is that they are expected to finally offer support for an SDK which developers have been working for for months. That’s the great disruption of this iPhone: mobile applications.

Clic.

Another great revolution was in our hands. One that ended up making the App Store a reference model for the rest of platforms. Not only that: it set the Apple smartphone as an example of everything others wanted to accomplish.

These two disruptions, as I said, changed our world. Giants fell and new ones rose, and in the meantime we started to adapt to a new world in which something singular happened: the mobile phone was no longer a device to (merelly) talk to others.

Clic.

The phone became something much bigger, because these small rectangles of glass, metal and plastic have been transformed themselves and transformed us. All the revolutions have had their lights and shadows, and the iPhone has not escaped from that blessed curse. It doesn’t matter: this a very special day for the iPhone.

Happy birthday. And congratulations for changing our world.

The Kaby Lake fraud

Do not buy a computer this year.

There it is. You can stop reading now. That’s the conclusion of this post, which I publish with outrage after seeing how the presentation of new Kaby Lake CPUs from Intel is an absolute disappointment. Marc Whalton expressed it well at the beginning of his analysis in Ars Technica (emphasis mine):

The Intel Core i7-7700K is what happens when a chip company stops trying. The i7-7700K is the first desktop Intel chip in brave new post- “tick-tock” world-that means that instead of major improvements to architecture, process, and instructions per clock (IPC), we get slightly higher clock speeds and a Way to decode DRM-laden 4K streaming video. Huzzah.

That first sentence is sadly true, and in fact you would not need to read much more than that. Just having a look at some of the graphs that show its performance in synthetic benchmarks makes everything clear again:

This is just one example of how Intel has managed to fool the entire industry and become a lazy company. One that lives on past glories. Like Apple, I’d say.

That review of the Intel Core i7-7700K at Ars Technica is by far the best you can read about this microprocessor. It is, in fact, the only thing you should read about it, and here I include reviews done in Spanish and in English that are a real shame. They are because they stick to the message that Intel wants to offer, and they close their eyes to the obvious criticism. Intel has become confortable with itself. I am especially surprised and disappointed by the short-sighted review at AnandTech, a tech site I normally revere but that in this case has published its review with a misleading headline and conclusions. They even criticized in the text the ability to overclock (“our CPU sample is somewhat average to poor in terms of overclocking performance“) and then end up with a section where they crowned it as “the new champion”. Wrong.

Why has Intel settled for this? I would say they did this for a simple reason: they could. At the moment there is no competition in the market, and unless AMD Ryzen tells us otherwise – and the leaked evidence does not point to it – it will not be there for quite some time. It seems that Intel will be able to continue in lazy mode, accommodated and without really innovating.

The situation is worrying and sad, especially beacuse Intel has been on this path for a long time. His old tick-tock philosophy amazed us and made us enjoy an astounding pace of innovation, but between the reality that physics imposes —Moore’s law has an expiration date, if it is not already expired— and self-imposed Intel, we end up with a regrettable strategy. The one of the delays and rehashes, that is what is Kaby Lake. A 14 nm rehash.

I would say more. It is a fraud.

Save your money and wait for Cannonlake. Maybe the 10nm are worth it, because Kaby Lake does not.

Facebook and Google define our mobile life

Happy new year, my dear readers.

Nielsen has released a new report with the ‘Top Smartphone Apps of 2016’ in the U.S., and there it becomes clear that two tech companies dominate the scenario here. Facebook and Facebook Messenger account together for 275 million of unique users per month on average (350M if we add Instagram, #8 on this list), but the next five spots go to Google, who had 511 million of unique users on average each month thanks to its plethora of services.

We have then Apple Music on the #9, and a surprising Amazon on the #10 with the biggest growth of all of them: a staggering 43% YoY.

You can tell a lot from who is on that list, but also from who isn’t. Like Snapchat, or Twitter, or WhatsApp (popular outside the US) or WeChat (China centric).

There’s also a strong message here: Apple is mostly irrelevant on the services arena, and they don’t seem to need people using their services when at least they use their devices. The cloud failure is again evident on this chart, but the contrary is true for Facebook, that has built an empire with just an app.

That is much more powerful, I’d say, than building it with hardware, because Facebook is ruling a lot of people’s lives and is their reality. That’s frightening and marvelous and daunting and incredible. Something similar could be said of Google, who all of us should fear even more for its appetite of having us and, beyond that, our data.

These are dangerous times, and to have two companies that depend on our private data and our behaviour to exist is terrifying. And seeing us not doing anything about it is even worse.

Everybody lies

Matthew Panzarino quotes Tim Cook on TechCrunch:

The desktop is very strategic for us. It’s unique compared to the notebook because you can pack a lot more performance in a desktop — the largest screens, the most memory and storage, a greater variety of I/O, and fastest performance. So there are many different reasons why desktops are really important, and in some cases critical, to people.

The current generation iMac is the best desktop we have ever made and its beautiful Retina 5K display is the best desktop display in the world.

Some folks in the media have raised the question about whether we’re committed to desktops. If there’s any doubt about that with our teams, let me be very clear: we have great desktops in our roadmap. Nobody should worry about that.

I’m counting three lies and one truth there.

  1. Lie #1: The desktop is not strategic for Apple. If it were so, they would have refreshed all that family more often.
  2. Truth #1: Desktops are critical to people in some people
  3. Lie #2: Apple may have desktops in their roadmap, but they aren’t going to be great.
  4. Lie #3: Cook is only speaking about the iMac 5K, so speaking about desktops as a class is also a lie. No Mac Pro / Mac mini refresh according to people in the matter.

It’s no surprise hearing this from Cook, but he’s convincing no one. Too many expectations turned into dissapointments for many people make it difficult to trust Apple right now in this (and other) subject.

Microsoft says everyone is switching, and no one is believing it

On certain ocassions, lately more often than not, we found clickbait on sites that we respected and trusted. Someone from those sites says something and we should believe it.

The problem is, we shouldn’t.

It’s dissappointing to see that mostly everyone has took the bait with the Microsoft post about its wonderful year with its Surface division:

More people are switching from Macs to Surface than ever before. Our trade-in program for MacBooks was our best ever, and the combination of excitement for the innovation of Surface coupled with the disappointment of the new MacBook Pro – especially among professionals – is leading more and more people to make the switch to Surface, like this. It seems like a new review recommending Surface over MacBook comes out daily. This makes our team so proud, because it means we’re doing good work.

Microsoft, could you please give some actual data? I can’t believe a word you say, and I certainly can’t not understand the scope of that statement if you don’t give me actual numbers. That post would be true if, for example, no one would have ever switched before from a Mac to a Surface, and now there was at least 1 or 2 people doing it.

We need to have context. What are you comparing, in which region, in which data range, and of course the real sale numbers. It’s not enough to insert a link to one switcher’s story.

I want to believe, Microsoft. Except I can’t.

Pebble: Requiem for a dream

Pebble Time 2, Pebble Core, and Pebble Time Round watches will never ship.

One of the latest and greatest market disruptions didn’t come from Apple, Tesla or Amazon. It came from a company you had never heard about, and it also showed that a good idea could also be the start of a revolution even if you had not the resources to make it a reality.

hype

Pebble started the smartwatch era, and it made everyone dream of the next step in the wearable and mobile devices. As with any other of the trends in the Hype Cycle (made famous by Gartner) the peak of inflated expectations led to the trough of disillusionment. Pebble, though, has not find an exit from that trough.

Others in the smartwatch market are trying to enter the next step of that cycle and enter the phase of ‘Slope of Enlightenment’ to end finally in that dreamed ‘Plateau of Productivity’. Apple is apparently doing fine with its Apple Watch, but interest in those devices and the ones based in Android Wear isn’t growing.

But whereas Apple and Google partners can survive —smarwatches were just a little part of their businesses—, Pebble can’t. It’s only mission was to make the smartwatch succeed. In fact, it was more than a mission. It was a dream. Their dream.

Seeing a smart, brave dream like this fail is a tragedy. But the market is right: smartwatches are just glorified smartphone accesories. At least for now.

Hopefully they will become something else in the future, but Pebble won’t be part of that future. If someone at the company reads this, I’d like to say: thanks for the ride.

Related (coincidentally, Fitbit bought Pebble assets): Smartwatches didn’t kill the Fitbit

Google Pixel: a smart step for a smartphone

Jerry Hildenbrand on AndroidCentral:

Morgan Stanley analysts think the Pixel and Pixel XL are going to be really good for Alphabet’s bottom line with over eight million units sold and $6 billion in revenue.

Many consumers complained about the change course and the departure from the now almost legend-wait for it-dary Nexus family, but that affordable family now makes less and less sense.

Competing in the low spectrum of the smartphone market is getting more and more difficult, but the guys at Google know they can differenciate themselves from the rest of Android phone makers by integrating software with hardware better than anyone, à la Apple.

Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL seem to perform really well and their cameras are probably the best on the market right now. They’re on par at least with the ones found on the Galaxy S7/Edge and iPhone 7/Plus, but the inclusion of Google Assistant (still a little bit inmature) could mean a real new start from the hardware division at Google.

It’s weird: Microsoft and Google seemed to making some hardware products just for fun. Now they have showed they can make better (high end) products than the majority of their partners/rivals.

No one gets the MacBook Pro, and you probably won’t either

The MacBook Pro reviews are coming. Not the ones about the base model, but the ones that finally analyze the model with Touch Bar, that invention that according to Apple is the future of those computers. Well, not many seem to think likewise.

In fact, most of the reviews are just a confirmation of what people thought of these machines after being launched a few weeks ago. On ReCode Walt Mossberg has been unsusally crude with Apple, something that is really surprising:

The new 13-inch MacBooks — even the base model without the Touch Bar — are costly. And they may make pro users unhappy. But, for everyday Mac lovers — users of the Air or maybe the older low-end Pro — they are now your only thin, modern option with a full-fledged processor. The Touch Bar has potential, but it’s not magic. The battery isn’t likely to deliver on Apple’s claims. You can’t count on liking the keyboard. But, if you’re a Mac devotee ready to move past the Air — not back to a lower-powered MacBook — this is what Apple is offering. Take it or leave it.

There you go. It’s Apple’s way or the highway.

Same thing on The Verge. These guys have tested both the 13 and the 15 inch models, and the former has been rated with a 7.6. That’s the lowest score I’ve seen on an Apple product since The Verge was born five years ago. The two final sentences are again conclusive:

I have little doubt that in a couple years, the technology Apple has been waiting for will arrive and this vision, or something closer to it, will be complete. Apple just released this machine too soon, or was too aggressive in the decisions it made.

That future is almost certainly out there. But it’s not in this machine. Not yet.

In both cases they talk about the #donglelife problem: you better buy adapters and dongles for all those non-USB-C peripherals you got around, but they also claim the battery is underwhelming. The Touch ID, though, is a nice addition.

Engadget is on that line too: they don’t seem to understand this MacBook Pro and the reasons why Apple has decided to go this route:

As I said, there’s ultimately a lot to like about the new MacBook Pro. But it’s designed for someone who I’m not sure exists outside Apple’s fantasies of how professionals use computers. The MacBook Pro I want to see is built around real people’s work habits. I still recommend it, and I imagine many of you who have been waiting patiently will indeed buy this. But I’d enjoy it more if it were designed for people like us.

There are lots of other reviews, but from what I’ve read they are all (with a few exceptions) almost the same. Nobody seems to get the MacBook Pro, and maybe it’s our fault. Maybe we don’t understand it because we aren’t looking beyond our current devices or our current workflow.

Maybe Apple has just got ahead of its time like it did with other products. Or maybe not. Maybe the MacBook Pro is a big failure everybody is trying to understand and accept because it’s coming from Apple, so it has to be thenextbigthing.

I assume the latter.

I do think that some of the ports we’re using right now have to dissapear sometime in the future, but not so soon and in such a radical way. I really thing the Touch Bar isn’t going to stay with us for much too long.

At least, it will have to evolve and be something that proves that changing our way to work is really worthy. The current Touch Bar doesn’t do that.

This is not looking good Apple. Not at all.