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July 19, 2019 7:30 AM PT
This week, on the irreverent tech show that’s been away for a little too long, we discuss some new sneak peeks at Apple’s upcoming TV shows, why we’re not eager to let Elon Musk put anything into our brain, ridiculous reports of iPhone loyalty decreasing, and so many security vulnerabilities that your head will spin. Plus, have we hit peak podcasts? Then why is Apple so interested?
Dan Moren for Macworld
July 19, 2019 5:53 AM PT
It may only be July, but it’s never too early to start speculating about Apple’s next big announcements. We’re likely another seven or eight weeks out from the company’s annual September event, and while little is known about what Apple might have up its sleeves, a new iPhone line-up seems like a sure thing. (After all, it’s not like Cupertino’s just going to up and quit making them.)
I ventured into an Apple Store recently to help my wife upgrade from her iPhone 6, and as we ran down the list of available models, I found myself thinking back to that two-by-two product grid I discussed just last week and how antithetical it seems to the current crop of iPhones.
That’s not inherently bad: not everything has to fit neatly into a grid. But though Apple’s phone line-up has a method to its madness, it does remain pretty confusing for the average customer. Looking forward to the 2019 iPhone line-up, I wonder if it’s time to start thinking about slimming things down a bit.
Jason Snell for Macworld
July 17, 2019 11:37 AM PT
The podcast industry has been flooded with big money over the last few years, as businesses and investors seek to get in on a rapidly growing media business that’s got a lot of room for audience and revenue growth. (Spotify alone is spending $500 million on podcast companies and exclusive content.)
And yet over all this time, the industry’s biggest player hasn’t made any big podcast business moves.
That player is Apple—its Podcasts app is the top podcast player, with 50 to 70 percent of the app market—and its time as a neutral supporter of the industry may be coming to an end. Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman and Lucas Shaw report that Apple is talking to media companies about buying exclusive rights to podcasts.
This isn’t a surprising revelation. Podcasting is an area in which Apple currently exerts a huge amount of influence. This is not to say that any new Apple podcast endeavor would be a sure thing.
July 17, 2019 10:12 AM PT
This week, on the 30-minute show that’s got a whole lot of heart, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Florence Ion and Jeff Carlson to discuss the best photo-sharing site for group events, how we use the multiple lenses on our smartphones, Apple potentially getting into the production side of podcasts, and the modern-day moonshots that inspire us. Plus, a museum-themed bonus topic.
July 16, 2019 12:35 PM PT
50 years ago, humans first set foot on the moon. The work of the crew of Apollo 11 has inspired people for five decades, and their legacy continues to shine on today. In this episode, Stephen and Jason discuss three aspects of the mission that aren’t as well known, including Neil Armstrong’s brush with death in a training exercise, the science performed by the crew during their lunar EVA, and the astronauts’ less-than-glamorous welcome back to Earth.
July 15, 2019 12:34 PM PT
We answer a lot of your #askupgrade questions, then break down how Apple’s changing its laptop line and retail stores. Also, Warner Media makes a big bet on the HBO brand name, and Apple News+ is unsurprisingly not succeeding. Then we start the show with #snelltalk! This week with Jason and Myke.
Jason Snell for Tom's Guide
July 15, 2019 8:43 AM PT
That blue bubble. Apple works to tie its customers to its ecosystem in many different ways, but there’s no better symbol of the power of platform lock-in than the blue-bubble users of Apple’s Messages app see when they’re talking to a fellow member of the Apple tribe. On Android or a feature phone? You get a green bubble. It’s just not as good.
And yet for all the importance the Messages app has to Apple’s platform, it could be a lot better than it is today. Over the past few years, Apple has introduced features that haven’t gone anywhere, while leaving some other potentially powerful features unaddressed.
Dan Moren for Macworld
July 12, 2019 4:24 AM PT
When Steve Jobs came back to Apple, one of his early moves was to vastly simplify what had become a bloated line-up of Mac hardware. Jobs famously showed off a two-by-two product grid: pro and consumer, desktop and portable. Filling the grid were four products—iMac, PowerMac, iBook, PowerBook—each addressing one of those combinations.
The two-by-two grid lasted for several years, until the debut of the category-busting Mac mini in 2005. Since then, there’s been an almost magnetic impulse to cite the grid as the holy grail of Apple product design aspirations. Every time Apple releases something a new Mac, pundits try desperately to figure out how to shove the latest addition into the already bulging grid.
With this week’s rearrangement of its portable lineup, Apple has gotten both closer to and farther away from that product grid ideal—if indeed it’s even an ideal that Apple should be striving for anymore. But what the new lineup does point out is that there’s a puzzling imbalance in the company’s Mac offerings.
July 10, 2019 12:06 PM PT
This week, on the 30-minute show that has absolutely no time to spare, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Jason Howell and Heidi Helen Pilypas to discuss FaceTime Attention Correction and the future of AR, how we imagined future tech as kids and what’s available now, our thoughts on the Nintendo Switch Lite, and a look back at the first Apple products we owned.
By Jason Snell
July 10, 2019 11:35 AM PT
So a security reacher noticed that business videoconferencing app Zoom was doing a bunch of bad stuff that left Mac users potentially vulnerable to privacy and security breaches.
My guess is that Zoom’s original sin comes out of its corporate culture, which is focused on competing in a pretty cutthroat industry with demanding clients (IT managers) and not particularly technically literate customers (the individual business users). There’s probably a great fear of losing business to other businesses who can boast about running video meetings with ever less friction to the user.
And then Apple comes along and introduces a security feature to Safari that requires a confirmation click when any link in a web browser attempts to open an external app. Zoom, which likes to pass around web links as a way of driving users into conference calls, didn’t look at this security measure as something to help keep their customers secure—it viewed it as an addition of friction by the platform owner.
Zoom’s response was to build a secret local web server, which allowed Zoom to rewrite its hyperlinks to connect to a web server instead of an app—so the web server could bypass Safari’s security and launch the app without a second click.
I use Zoom because it’s a superior product to Skype for the large-panel podcasting that I do 1, but this issue gives me pause—and not because of the specific details of this event. No, it’s for what this says about Zoom’s priorities as a company. When the platform owner decides that web links shouldn’t open other apps without an approval click—a pretty sensible security measure—the corporate response shouldn’t be to bypass that click by invisibly installing a hidden server that’s a potential security hole.
Perhaps Zoom got a call from someone at Apple yesterday, indicating that the click-to-confirm Safari feature is intended to be used and that bypassing it is not cool. Zoom’s app is not in the App Store, so Apple’s control over the company is a somewhat limited… but Apple does have built-in malware protection it could bring to bear. And in the future, Apple will have the power to kill specific versions of specific apps by default on macOS. Third-party software developers circumvent the Mac’s platform security features at great risk to their own businesses.
In any event, Zoom has rolled out an update that removes the local web server, adds a de-install feature, and allows users to permanently set a setting that turns video off by default. (Zoom had months to address these issues after being alerted to them by a security researcher, and didn’t. I have a hard time believing they will make the right choices in the future without a pretty major cultural shift.)
You can read the details about the updates on a rather amazing Zoom blog post which has been updated four times as of this writing. The initial response, at the bottom, is an arrogant shoulder shrug that attempts to portray the security researcher as a silly busybody. Scroll up from there to see the increasing realization inside Zoom that their successive responses just keep failing to measure up.
[Update: Did someone mention “built-in malware protection”? TechCrunch reports that Apple has killed Zoom’s invisible web server across all versions, so even users who haven’t update to the latest version will no longer have that server running in the background.]
Zoom lets me automatically record discrete audio tracks for each person on a call, something Skype still can’t do. This feature has saved me four times already this year. Few cross-platform tools with this feature can handle large groups. I’ll keep looking, though. ↩
Jason Snell for Macworld
July 10, 2019 10:54 AM PT
Sixteen months ago I wrote a eulogy, of a sort for the MacBook Air. My all-time favorite Apple laptop was a living fossil, a non-Retina USB-A laptop in a sea of shiny new Apple tech. Apple had done a minor processor update to keep it on life support and there were rumors that another one was in the offing. The long goodbye was becoming endless.
But something funny happened on the way to the abattoir: The MacBook Air not only got a reprieve and a Retina upgrade, but with Tuesday’s update to the Apple laptop line, it’s killed off both of its putative replacements.
You come at the king, you best not miss.
By Six Colors Staff
July 9, 2019 6:15 AM PT
Time for a game of laptop musical chairs. Apple made some adjustments to its portable line-up this morning, with a cheaper price point for the MacBook Air and improvements to the entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro. But the 12-inch MacBook? It’s gone, baby, gone.
In addition to its new $1,099 ($999 for college students) price tag—which cuts $100 off the old price, and $150 off for college students—the MacBook Air now features True Tone capability on its display and the new keyboard materials introduced in other MacBook Pro models back in May. Other than that, the model is basically unchanged from the one we declared the best Mac to buy for a student.
The entry-level 13-inch MacBook Pro, which was originally the one MacBook Pro model without a Touch Bar, is no longer quite so much of an outlier. It’s also gained new quad-core processors to replace its old dual-core options, True Tone, the T2 chip, and Touch ID, meaning we can bid adieu to the “MacBook Escape” sobriquet given to it when it was the only MacBook Pro model to have a physical escape key. It does, however, retain its status as the only MacBook Pro model with only two Thunderbolt 3 ports. Its price point is unchanged at $1,299, but college students can get $100 off.
(This update was timed to coincide with Apple’s annual Back to School promotion, which offers a pair of Beats Studio 3 headphones with purchase of a qualifying Mac.)
But it’s not all about give—the 12-inch MacBook has been removed from Apple’s website (though refurbished versions are still available). That device was always a contentious one, with some loving its small footprint and weight, while others were frustrated by its underpowered nature and lack of more than one USB-C port. There’s always the possibility that Apple might design another ultralight laptop, of course, especially if a rumored transition to ARM processors is in the wings, but for now it seems clear that the MacBook Air is the consumer-focused Mac laptop in Apple’s line-up.
July 8, 2019 1:33 PM PT
Guest Marco Arment joins Jason and Myke to discuss the possibility of new Apple laptop keyboards at last, his Overcast priorities over the next year, and the future of podcasting. There are also some mild opinions about Jony Ive, the streaming-video wars, and cappuccino.
By Dan Moren
July 8, 2019 11:39 AM PT
Apple’s Texas Hold’em game is so old it was originally developed for the iPod. While it eventually made the jump to iOS, it eventually folded in 2011. But now it’s back! With updated gameplay, graphics, and “new characters.” 1 You can even play against up to eight of your friends via Wi-Fi. (What, no Game Center support?)
Amusingly, it’s built on the same App Store entry as it used to be, so you can still see the version history and reviews from a decade ago. I guess this counts as retro now, huh?
Texas Hold’em is a free download for iPhone and iPod touch—sorry, iPad fans.
I’m guessing Jony Ive ain’t one of them. ↩