Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

The missing announcements from Apple’s MacBook Pro event

By all accounts, Apple’s MacBook Pro announcements this week have been a home run: the return of a veritable smorgasbord of ports, fantastic new displays, and more power than you can shake a log at.

But even though what Apple did announce seemed to strike a chord with its audience, the event left a few head-scratching questions about what Apple chose not to do. It seemed like there were a few opportunities that the company decided not to move on—but, as always, there’s probably a rationale at work, even if it’s not immediately obvious.

Exit, Center Stage

While the addition of a 1080p webcam on the MacBook Pro is a welcome improvement from the piddling 720p version in previous models, it’s still a far cry from the 12 megapixel front-facing camera that Apple’s been adding to its latest iPhones and iPads—heck, even the $329 iPad has that ultra wide lens with Apple’s innovative Center Stage1 feature. So why not the fancy new Apple silicon-powered MacBook Pro?

Center Stage on iPad mini
Even the new iPad mini has Center Stage, but no Mac has gotten the feature yet.

Round up the usual suspects: space, logistics, and money. While the new 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros are undeniably thicker, at .61″ and .66″, than the svelte .25″ of the latest iPad Pros and iPad mini (and even the .25″ thickness of the ninth-generation iPad), we don’t yet know exactly how thick the lids of the new MacBooks are, nor what else Apple had to cram in there to accommodate the new mini-LED display.

On the logistics front, it seems clear that these models were destined to arrive earlier this year, back when Center Stage was exclusive to the latest iPad Pros. We don’t know the relative development cycles of MacBook Pro versus iPad Pro, but given that the new notebooks are a much more substantial redesign than the latest iPad Pro, it’s quite likely that its been in development for a longer period, and that the camera module was already locked in at 1080p even as Center Stage was still being finalized.

And, of course, you can never overlook good old fashioned money. It’s possible that Apple simply made a cost-benefit analysis and decided that the extra amount it would cost to put in those camera modules just didn’t make sense.

Or it could be some combination of all of those factors. Most interesting to me will be whether the next iteration of the MacBook Air that’s already been rumored to appear next year will incorporate a Center Stage-compatible front-facing camera. This will be the second iteration of Air to arrive since the Apple silicon transition has begun, and seems like a more plausible time for this newer technology to make the jump to the Mac.

Color me bad

Setting aside the colors on the latest iPads and iPhones, Apple made a big splash with the new 24-inch iMacs earlier this year, dousing them in a variety of bright colors. But the MacBook Pro is available in the same old staid silver and space gray that it’s sported for years. What gives?

The colors of the 24-inch iMac have yet to make it to the rest of Apple’s lineup.

To my mind, there are two major possible suspects here: our old pal logistics, or Apple’s own design decisions. The former follows the same pattern as the webcam issue—even though the MacBook Pro was appearing later than the iMac, it’s possible that the company was just out of sync enough in its development cycle that the new colors weren’t ready for the MacBook Pro line.

But also possible—and perhaps more likely—is that Apple has decided that pro models don’t get those fancy colors because these are serious machines for work. The iPad Pro, iPhone Pro, and even high-end Apple Watch all come in only a few muted tones, even though I wouldn’t necessarily call them all “professional” devices. Moreover, one could easily argue that adding colors to the line-up doesn’t necessitate the removal of the more subdued options (case in point, the silver 24-inch iMac).

The real indicators will probably come with the next stage of Apple’s silicon transition. Will the larger iMac come in the same colors as its smaller sibling, or will it eschew the pastels in favor of the more boring options of the MacBook Pro? The next MacBook Air, meanwhile, is rumored to come in colors more like the iMac’s, but it’s also a more consumer-focused machine. And what of the Mac mini?

Yes—what of the Mac mini?

Gettin’ mini with it

There was a lot of speculation that this week’s Apple event would not only see a MacBook Pro redesign, but also a replacement for the Intel Mac mini, which remains a product in Apple’s lineup. But when the 50-minute event came to a close, the Mac mini was left woefully untouched, with nary even a mention in the company’s press releases.

Mac mini
The M1 Mac mini is still lacking more powerful options.

Looking at the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips that Apple rolled out this week, it seems likely that the company could have probably plugged those into the existing Mac mini chassis and had at it. But I can think of two potential reasons why the company may have held off.

The first is that perhaps the company is rethinking the Mac mini. That could mean a variety of things. Perhaps Apple wants to do a more thorough redesign, à la the iMac and MacBook Pro. It doesn’t necessarily mean bright colors (see above), but perhaps a refinement to the industrial design, some adjustment of ports, a new form factor—who knows? The Mac mini may not be the most lauded computer in Apple’s lineup, but it fills a valuable niche, and Apple is definitely aware of that, even if it only revamps the computer every few years or so. But perhaps this is the time it’s going to give the Mac mini some love.

On the other side of the coin, we’ve been hearing for a while that the next Mac Pro revision may be smaller than the current hefty model, and could provide a greater degree of customization, both upwards and downwards. Could the mythical mid-range desktop Mac in fact be happening? It’s possible that, given its forthcoming Mac Pro plans, Apple has elected to replace the mini’s niche with a smaller version of its high-end desktop, leaving the mini itself as a more entry-level option (a role it was initially intended to fill back when it was first introduced).

I’m not sure I buy this, personally: the Mac mini, as I said, has a lot of value in its small size and versatility. Like the Mac Pro, however, it may not be the most popular desktop Mac.

And that’s where my second—and, I think, more likely—theory comes into play. We’ve already seen the Apple silicon-based MacBook Pros arrive later than expected, and, unless you’ve been living disconnected from the Internet for the last year2, you’re aware of the substantial problems currently impacting the global supply chain. Based on what I’ve heard so far from folks ordering MacBook Pros, ship dates have already slipped pretty far, with many models not arriving until December.

So I think Apple gauged its ability to roll out multiple computers models powered by scant supplies of its M1 Max and M1 Pro chips and decided that it wanted to prioritize sales of the MacBook Pro, which are both more popular and, I’d presume, higher margin products. There was a lot of pent-up demand for the new MacBook Pro as it was, and probably far more customers who were going to be disappointed if they couldn’t get one than those waiting on a higher-end Mac mini. Just your classic triage situation: put as many of your supply-limited processors as you can into MacBook Pros, then update the Mac mini when it’s convenient.

If that reasoning does prove true, I wouldn’t expect to see a new high-end Mac mini until next spring at the earliest—possibly alongside the launch of the new larger iMacs. Granted, that all depends on what shape the world is in by that point—and if this past year is any indication, it could be a bumpy ride.

  1. I do love that Apple spells the feature “Centre Stage” in the UK and other countries. 
  2. In which case, welcome and do not read the news. 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at His latest novel, The Aleph Extraction, is out now and available in fine book stores everywhere, so be sure to pick up a copy.]

By Jason Snell

Exile from Dongletown

It was around 2016 on the edge of the desert when the Touch Bar began to take hold. I remember saying something like “I’ll need several adapters for that…” And suddenly there was a terrible roar all around us and the sky was full of what looked like huge butterflies, all clicking and sticking around the laptop, which was going about 2.8 gigahertz with the top down to Dongletown.

If Mac laptops come in eras, one just ended.

It started in 2016 with the release of MacBook Pro models featuring butterfly keyboards, the Touch Bar, and a minimal selection of USB-C ports. It ended on Monday with the announcement of new MacBook Pro models that roll back most of the major changes introduced in 2016, putting the MacBook Pro in a new state of grace that recalls the middle of the last decade.

If you can, cast your mind back to the 2015 MacBook Pro. It had all of these features, due to be deprecated in 2016:

  • MagSafe charging port
  • HDMI port
  • SD card slot
  • 2 Thunderbolt and 2 USB-A ports
  • Physical function keys

Now consider the 2021 MacBook Pros, which have:

  • MagSafe charging port
  • HDMI port
  • SD card slot
  • Three Thunderbolt 4/USB 4 ports
  • Physical function keys

Although Apple removed the dreadful “butterfly” keyboard in 2019-2020, the rest of the issues with this era of MacBook Pro remained. They’re largely gone now.

Return of the MagSafe.

MagSafe: Adding USB-C as a charging port was good in a lot of ways. It was non-proprietary, unlike the first two generations of MagSafe, which basically couldn’t be used with anything but Apple’s power brick. With USB-C, you could attach a laptop to a dock, and it would charge, too. With MagSafe, you always needed two cords—one for charging, one for data.

Adding USB-C also added flexibility. If you had a higher-end MacBook Pro with ports on both sides, you could charge from either one.

Unfortunately, Apple had spent years selling MacBook users on the enhanced safety of a magnetically-attached breakaway cable, and it was completely right. So much so that many of us ended up buying third-party alternatives. My M1 MacBook Air has a magnetic-charging thing permanently stuck in one of its two USB-C ports, so I can charge it with a magnetic cable that attaches to a USB-C power brick. Not ideal, but it was worth it to get MagSafe back during the dark ages.

Finally, using USB-C as a charging port means that you’re losing one of your ports for peripherals whenever you want to charge. On MacBook Pros with only a port or two, that was a brutal loss. The new MacBook Pros can charge and still have three open ports—but they used to have four ports, so essentially the MagSafe port has swallowed one. Probably fine on a system with three other ports. But if MagSafe ate one of the ports on a future two-port model, I would be disappointed.

(Here’s a quirk of the new MacBook Pros. On the 14-inch models, the larger 96W USB-C power adapter is required for fast charging. You can fast charge either via MagSafe or via a standard USB-C cable attached to that adapter. However, on the 16-inch models—all of which come with a 140W adapter—you can only do ultra-fast charging via MagSafe. While there’s a new specification that allows for much higher power delivery levels over USB ports, the Thunderbolt 4/USB 4 ports on the MacBook Pro don’t support it. You can still charge via those ports, of course—just not at the ultra-fastest speed.)

HDMI: If there’s a video cable more universal than HDMI these days, I haven’t seen it. While your favorite conference room may be equipped with a USB-C cable or adapter, it’s very hard to count on finding one when you wander into a room with a projector or big screen, sight unseen. An HDMI port on a MacBook Pro means never having to be sorry when you need to plug in.

HDMI haven’t seen you for a while. Good to SD you again.

SD slot: Apple’s argument for getting rid of the SD slot was that the future would be wireless, and we wouldn’t need to use cards to transfer data anymore. It wasn’t true back in 2016, and it’s still not true. Sure, some devices equipped with SD cards now offer wireless data transfer, but let me tell you—it’s not as fast or reliable as just plugging in a card and transferring the data! And a lot of our non-Apple devices still rely on slow USB ports to transfer data if you have to copy the data directly. The SD slot is just convenient whether you’re a pro transferring photos, audio, or video.

And as my podcast partner Myke Hurley pointed out to me just after the event on Monday, that slot is also a great place for extra “internal storage” on your MacBook Pro. Pop in an SD card, and while it might not be the fastest or most robust long-term storage, it’ll give your MacBook extra storage space without a USB drive or cable sticking out and flopping around.

Thunderbolt 4/USB 4: Apple’s not going back to USB-A. And yet, this is much less painful than it was five years ago. So many devices are moving or have moved to USB-C, and even for devices using older connections, you can usually buy a new cable with USB-C on one end. If I graphed my use of USB-A-to-USB-C adapters over the years, it would be a steady downward slope reaching almost zero today. I’m okay with Apple leaving this one where it is. Still, Dongletown abides. Computer users will always need hubs and adapters to keep everything plugged in properly. That may never, ever change.

Touch Bar no more.

Function keys: When the Touch Bar arrived, I thought it had a lot of potential. Unfortunately, there were two big problems: a lack of tactile feedback and software support. In a world where video streamers and others swear by accessories like El Gato’s Stream Deck, which puts a screen behind keys so that you can customize them, it feels like the Touch Bar might have worked better if it wasn’t completely featureless in terms of feel. The surface perpendicular to the screen on a laptop is a touch surface—it’s largely operated by feel. The Touch Bar demanded that you look at it, and that was asking a lot. I wonder if a Stream Deck-style Touch Bar might have been a better approach.

As for the lack of software support, that comes from the top: After the launch of the Touch Bar, Apple did almost zero to help the hardware fulfill its potential. Third-party apps like BetterTouchTool showed that the Touch Bar could be made much more usable with some clever software upgrades, but macOS never added a single major Touch Bar improvement over its entire life. I don’t know if Apple’s software team just never bought what the hardware team that designed the Touch Bar was selling, or if the whole company knew the feature was dead after a few months, or if the emperor always had no clothes and it took years for everyone to admit it. Regardless of its potential, the Touch Bar never had a chance because even its creator failed to show it any love.

What’s new in 2021

Of course, the 2015 15″ MacBook Pro also featured a 15.4-inch 2880-by-1800 pixel display with 300 nits of brightness, an Intel Core i7 processor configurable up to 2.8GHz quad-core, graphics configurable up to an AMD Radeon R9, 16GB of memory, measured 14.1 x 9.7 x 0.71 inches, weighed 4.49 pounds, and offered up to nine hours of wireless web browsing battery life.

Today’s 16″ model, in contrast, features a 16.2-inch 3456-by-2234 display with 1000 nits of consistent brightness (with 1600 nits at peak), an M1 Pro or M1 Max processor with 10 processor cores, Apple GPUs with between 16 and 32 cores, up to 64GB of memory, measures 14.0 x 9.8 x 0.66 inches, weighs 4.7 pounds, and offers up to 14 hours of wireless web browsing battery life.

Or, to put it another way: Today’s laptops are still six years newer. They’ve got a state-of-the-art mini-LED display (with a new menu bar area bisected by a camera notch—more on that some other time!), Apple’s cutting edge processors, much better battery life, and are roughly the same size—albeit a tiny bit heavier.

If you prefer the smaller 14-inch model, the story is more or less the same. In fact, in terms of 2021, it’s exactly the same. I can’t remember the last time this was true, but both models of MacBook Pro can be configured to the same heights if you want to—every single built-to-order option from the more expensive, larger model is also available in the smaller one. Want a 14-inch model with an M1 Max processor with a 32-core GPU, 64GB of memory, and 8TB of storage? That’ll be $5899, please. (The 16-inch model is $6099 with the same specs.)

You pay for what you get

Oh yes: the pricing. Apple has hiked the base price of the smaller model to $1999, and that’s just the start of it. For $1999, you get a model with eight CPU cores rather than ten, 14 GPU cores rather than 16, and a 67W power adapter in the box. $200 more gets you all 10 CPU cores, but only 14 GPU cores. To get an M1 Pro that fulfills its destiny, that’ll be $300 more, or $2299. These are not cheap computers, and the more of them you want, the more you’ll pay.

I am also left wondering about the role of the 13-inch MacBook Pro. Starting at $1299, it’s doing a lot more work in holding down the bottom of the line than it used to. But it’s definitely a MacBook Pro of a different era, despite its M1 processor. I have to imagine Apple will update it at some point, perhaps just to get rid of the Touch Bar and add MagSafe. It’s hard to imagine it would disappear altogether, given that then the MacBook Pro line would start at $1999, but it’s an outlier that’s still a bit too much like the MacBook Air and too little like the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros.

Speaking of the MacBook Air and all of the M1 Macs Apple has rolled out in the past year: It’s exciting to see the Apple-silicon-on-Mac story have a second chapter. The M1 processor was rightfully greeted with a lot of praise, but it is still a low-end chip running in Apple’s lowest-impact Macs. It takes two points to make a line. Now that the M1 Pro and M1 Max have arrived, Apple’s post-Intel product line is starting to take shape.

The new MacBook Pros are here! Jason and Myke break down what’s new with Apple’s pro laptops, welcome the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, and even devote a little time to new AirPods and colorful HomePods. Also, Myke’s wallet is a little bit lighter.

By Jason Snell

Safari 15 Watch: Old tabs edition

It’s official: As of the latest macOS Monterey beta—version 12.0.1, which makes me wonder if they’ve locked version 12.0 on the new MacBook Pro models and everyone else will jump straight to 12.0.1—Safari tabs have been reverted to their original “tab” appearance, instead of being a bunch of floating lozenges.

I feel bad for everyone at Apple who worked hard on building a new Safari design only to see it entirely reverted just before shipping. That said, it was the right decision, and I’m glad it never made it into the final version.

(And it’s not completely gone: If you opt for the Compact tab layout in Safari’s Preferences, you’ll get the original narrow lozenge-style tab design.)

Also gone, apparently: That colored toolbar that shifts based on the design of the currently active tab. If you scroll down when you’re at the top of a page, you’ll get a glimpse of that color, but it appears to have vanished from the chrome at the top of the window.

All these changes seem to have also been made to the release candidate of iPadOS 15.1, too. Hooray.

By Dan Moren

The MacBook Pro and macOS details Apple didn’t talk about

Apple’s Unleashed event wrapped up in under an hour on Monday, and it wasn’t short on news: new MacBook Pros, brand new Apple silicon processors, new colors of HomePods, and, uh, some music announcements.

But for all of that news, there were still a few things here and there that the company didn’t talk about in its 50-minute spiel, which some perusing of the Apple website—and some eagle-eyed readers—picked out. Let’s run through a few.

Core strategy

With the M1 processor, Apple provided a single choice across all the various models: there were versions with 7 cores of GPU, and versions with 8. Every single model had the same 8 cores of CPU.

With the M1 Pro and M1 Max, those options have changed a bit. Every model of the new MacBook Pro has the option to customize your choice of processors, which seem to be available in five configurations.

Processor CPU cores GPU cores
Pro* 8 14
Pro* 10 14
Pro 10 16
Max 10 24
Max 10 32

*Available on the low-end 14-inch MacBook Pro only.

It seems likely that both the 8-core CPU option and the 14-core GPU options are binned1 versions of the “standard” M1 Pro configuration: 10 CPU cores and 16 GPU cores.

The costs to upgrade to the better processors vary across the lineup: for example, upgrading to that top of the line 10/32 M1 Max chip in the base 14-inch MacBook Pro will set you back $700; on the mid-range 16-inch MacBook Pro, it’s $400.

You got the option

All MacBook Pro configurations start at 16GB of RAM, with a 32GB upgrade costing $400 and a 64GB upgrade $800—but the latter will require an M1 Max processor, since the Pro doesn’t support more than 32GB of RAM.

There are a variety of storage options; the base models for both the 14-inch and 16-inch start with 512GB SSDs, while the higher end versions are 1TB. But you can upgrade to 2TB, 4TB, or 8TB for varying costs, with that 8TB upgrade costing at least $2200.

The power, the power!

Apple has offered different power adapters with different wattages before, but there’s a lot going on here.

MacBook Pro power adapters
Big, bigger, biggest.

Most 14-inch MacBook Pros ship with a hefty 96W power adapter—however, if you opt for that low-end M1 Pro 8/14 configuration, it defaults to a more compact 67W adapter, slightly more powerful than the 61W version that ships with the 13-inch M1 MacBook Pro. (It’s also available on its own for $59.) The 96W version is also available for purchase, for $79.

And the 16-inch MacBook Pro includes a 140W power adapter, which is also available for purchase for $99.

All the power adapters have a USB-C plug on the brick2, and if you buy them by themselves they do not include a charging cable. However, you can opt for either a standard USB-C cable, plugging into the MacBook’s Thunderbolt 4 ports, or Apple’s new MagSafe-to-USB-C cable, which does come with the new MacBook Pros, or is available for purchase for $49.

Also worth noting: that impressive 21-hour battery time that Apple cited in the keynote is specifically for the 16-inch MacBook Pro and its beefy battery, while the 14-inch clocks in at a still impressive 17 hours. However, the quoted times are for “Apple TV app movie playback,” which is usually a strong point for Macs. “Wireless web” performance, by contrast, comes in at 11 hours for the 14-inch MacBook Pro and 14 hours for the 16-inch model, both of which fall short of the 17 hours of wireless web offered by the 13-inch model.

Keyed up

MacBook Pro keyboard

The full-size function keys on the MacBook Pro are the first to appear since…well, actually I don’t remember if a Mac laptop has had full-size function keys in the modern era. Even my PowerBook G3 had half-height versions. The keys replace Apple’s foray into touch controls with the Touch Bar; doubtlessly, some will be sad to it go, but many if not most users will suggest it not let the door hit it on the way out.

In addition, there’s also a Touch ID button, as on the M1 iMac’s Magic Keyboard, and—unlike the Magic Keyboard—an inverted-T arrow key layout. (This makes the iMac’s Magic Keyboard the only one in Apple’s line-up not to feature that layout, which is just odd.)

macOS Monterey

Though not mentioned during the presentation, macOS Monterey ships next Monday, October 25th as a free download. The release candidates have appeared already, and as developer Steve Troughton-Smith pointed out, images on Apple’s site point to the return of the classic tab appearance, prompting sighs of relief from around the world.

  1. That is to say, versions where some of the cores didn’t pass tests and were disabled. 
  2. And no Ethernet, sorry. 

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at His latest novel, The Aleph Extraction, is out now and available in fine book stores everywhere, so be sure to pick up a copy.]

By Dan Moren

Rebuilding my smart home: Let there be light

Lutron Caseta

One of the most interesting aspects of moving from an apartment you rent to a house you own is the freedom it gives you in terms of what smart home tech you can adopt. There are some things that just don’t fly in many rental units, like devices that require hardwiring, or anything that requires you to make lots of holes in walls.

And so you make do with alternatives, imperfect as they sometimes are. Take lighting, for example. Smart bulbs and smart outlets go a long way, but they also come with their share of frustrations—cue the numerous stories about people who’ve had to put tape or sticky notes on wall switches so that they don’t get turned off, thus rendering a smart bulb useless.

In my apartment, I had an assortment of Philips Hue bulbs around the place, letting me remotely control lights in my living room, kitchen, bedroom, and office.…

This is a post limited to Six Colors members.

By Jason Snell

‘LaserWriter II’: Life amid the broken Macs (and printers) of Tekserve

Tamara Shopsin’s novel Laserwriter II (MCD) will be published on October 19. It’s a funny and quirky book about ’90s-era Apple products and the people who fix them at New York City’s premier Mac repair shop, Tekserve. Tekserve was a real place! I never went there, but it was a fixture in Mac magazines and at Macworld Expo on the east coast.

The main character in Laserwriter II is a young woman who is taught the secrets of printer repair by the sages of Tekserve and works with a cast of characters—some pleasant, some unpleasant. It’s an enjoyable trip back in time with several laugh-out-loud passages. My only real criticism is that it’s too short, and left me wanting more.

Here’s a brief interview with the author:

Jason Snell: What prompted you to revisit the ’90s?

Tamara Shopsin: It was born of a desire to document the shuttered Macintosh repair shop: Tekserve. A place that happened to have had its heyday in the ’90s. I think anyone who went to Tekserve will understand the impulse of wanting to bottle it. It was a weird magical place whose advice could be trusted more than Yoda. If a person lived in NYC in the ’90s and used a Mac computer in any way they ended up at Tekserve. So it was an important place to the history of New York, but also Macintosh, which are two things that run through my veins.

The portrayal of Tekserve is incredibly detailed. Did you have personal experience with Tekserve? Did you talk to a bunch of former employees to get the story? It feels at times almost like a memoir rather than a novel.

Yes, I worked at Tekserve for three months, and I did work the printer desk, so much of the very technical stuff like using Apple’s service source documents comes from my memory. I also talked to a lot of former employees, many of whom I never met, all of ’em worked there much longer than me.

I put everything in the hopper and tried to spit out the truest & most readable version of Tekserve I could. The result is definitely fiction. Many swaths are made up from thin air. But it is also spun from real history. I worked hard to include as many actual details of Tekserve as I could. The result is that classifying the book is super confusing.

It doesn’t really matter to me if it is taken as a memoir or novel. I just hope people laugh and rip through it and feel full after they read it. Also that Tekserve is remembered as the kindhearted predecessor to the Genius Bar.

Did you do any technical research to get your portrayal of the nuts and bolts of computers and printers from that era correct?

Yes, but I am at heart a designer not a journalist or computer historian, so my technical research was often looking at eBay listings of Quadras and Mac Manuals. I did gleefully binge read Andy Hertzfeld’s in what began as research but ended up being entertainment.

I was struck that there are lots of women in the novel, even though tech in that era felt very much like a boys’ club. Were you trying to comment on this unpleasant aspect of computer history?

I was just trying to be true. That aspect of the proto-tech bro was present at Tekserve and it would have been off to ignore it. There were many good men at Tekserve and that is represented as well.

I do think Tekserve was a bit of an exception to the boy’s club. David and Dick, the founders, both came from the utopianism of the anti-war movement and not some delusional Silicon Valley mumbo jumbo. They really wanted to live in a more just society as such they went out of their way to hire women.

No idea if it is better today. I do know the book Broad Band by Claire L. Evans is a nice sweep through female computer history, that makes me think it isn’t a straight line.

There’s some very nice pixel art throughout the book. Is that your work? What was the inspiration for creating it?

Thank you. Yes, those are my drawings, though they are very inspired by the work of Susan Kare. I think it started with one pixel drawing. I wanted to draw cockroaches crawling on a page, and for some reason it struck me they should be little pixel roaches. The bugs crawling all over the page was obvious, but bad ideas often lead to better ones.

By Dan Moren

iPhone 13 Pro review: This Pro’s got few cons

iPhone 13 Pro Lineup

Almost every year since 2007, I’ve gotten a new iPhone.1 Some years promise big improvements over the past—others are more incremental. But 14 years into the iPhone’s life, those big updates are decidedly fewer and farther between.

Such it is with the iPhone 13 Pro. This is the third “Pro”-branded iPhone in Apple’s history, and with every iteration, it’s increasingly clear that the moniker is more marketing than anything of substance.

What makes a Pro phone? These days it’s more camera lenses, different materials, and one or two additional features. Not a better processor, increased storage, or even more RAM, the traditional hallmarks of “pro” in the Mac lineup. This isn’t a phone for pros—what would a “professional” smartphone user even look like? Are the rest of us rank amateurs by comparison?

Ultimately, the Pro phone is simply the more expensive phone—but Apple couldn’t exactly call it the “iPhone Pricier.”2 But I digress.

Jason has already taken a close look at the 13 and 13 mini in his review; the iPhone 13 Pro (and, by extension, the Pro Max, which feature-wise is exactly the same this year, with the exception of being larger in every way: chassis, screen, and battery life) mainly differs from its standard 13 counterpart in three ways. Do those features make the Pro phones “better”? Not necessarily: the real question is whether those factors make a meaningful difference to you, the potential phone customer.

Continue reading “iPhone 13 Pro review: This Pro’s got few cons”…

Surprise! Jason and Myke predict what will happen at next week’s Apple media event. What ports will be on the much-rumored MacBook Pro? Will it appear in familiar colors, or will Apple branch out and offer something new? Will we see updates to the Mac mini, new AirPods, or—dare we dream—an affordable external display? It’s all to play for.

October 14, 2021

MacBook Pros; Shortcuts and other betas.

Become a member (members, sign in) to listen to this podcast and get more benefits.

How we share passwords, a subscription service we wish we could give up, our external storage setup, and the tech we once wrongly dismissed.

By Jason Snell

Safari 15 watch: Favorites Bar edition

I know a lot of people who have been monitoring the progress of macOS Monterey and hoping that there might be more changes in store to the Safari interface before the final version ships, possibly as soon as later this month. I’ve been pretty dubious — it’s awfully late in the process for changes, after all.

And then macOS Monterey beta 10 dropped this week, and would you look at this:

safari 15

Yep, that’s the Safari Favorites Bar, now located above the tabs.

If you don’t use the Favorites Bar, maybe you won’t care. I use the Favorites Bar a lot, and I hated Apple’s decision to move it beneath the tabs. And now… it’s not?

So I’ve got to hand it to all of those people who wanted to believe that the design of Safari 15 on the Mac might still be in flux. I think they may be right, after all!

There’s an Apple event next week! So naturally we spend time talking about writing apps instead.

Adventure and the Apple Watch battery

David Smith is a prolific app developer, and has created several popular apps focused on the Apple Watch. And yet when it came time for him to take an extended backpacking adventure outdoors, he chose a different watch:

For short day trips, the Apple Watch is great. It has done an admirable job tracking various hiking outings for me, and I love being able to see exactly where I went on those adventures.

But its battery life has never allowed for this to be practical for multi-day trips. It needs to be charged after around 7 hours of tracked hiking. Fine for a day trip, but when I head out to environments like this there aren’t an abundance of outlets to be found.

When I read Apple Watch reviews that wish it had longer battery life, I think about how there are key milestones for some features. If an Apple Watch can’t get through a day, it’s too short. But after it can get through a day (and it’s fair to point out that for people who use workout tracking a lot and have the smaller Apple Watch model, it may not be there yet), does it need to get through a day plus a few hours?

It seems to me that once an Apple Watch can make it through a day (and a night’s sleep, if you’re doing sleep tracking), it’s a quantum leap to the next goal. I’m not sure what that goal should be—if I had to remember to charge my Apple Watch every two or three days, I’d lose track of what day it was and end up charging it every day regardless.1

Smith’s post, however, shows another way to calculate that goal. The watch Smith bought for his adventure lasted for nearly two weeks on a single charge. Rumors abound that Apple is thinking of creating a more rugged Apple Watch; I wonder if part of the goals for that project should be a larger battery and some sort of new extended-life mode that would provide extreme power savings and long life.

Maybe, maybe not. But once Apple has plausibly extended the battery life of the Apple Watch to beyond our own diurnal cycle, the next goal becomes a lot less distinct.

[Thanks to Six Colors member Gareth for the link.]

  1. I used to wear a Pebble smartwatch, which had multi-day battery life. Its battery died far more often than my Apple Watch ever has, because I never established a daily routine to charge it. 
—Linked by Jason Snell

By Dan Moren for Macworld

Will we still be using Apple devices in the future–or will we be living with them?

Over the last several decades, Apple’s success has stemmed from one overriding philosophy: making technology personal. From the computer that sat on your desk, to the notebook you popped open on your lap, to the iPhone that you carry in your pocket and the Apple Watch you wear on your wrist, the company has increasingly fostered that personal connection between us and our devices.

But more recently, that personal connection has also carried with it a degree of insularity, of wrapping ourselves up in technology. In a recent interview with Bustle, Apple CEO Tim Cook commented on the interplay between technology and mental health:

… it’s how we look at the world. We want people to do things with their devices, like the photography exhibit that we both enjoyed, or connecting with family and friends with FaceTime. Not endless, mindless scrolling.

That prioritization does sometimes seem at odds with the very nature of the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, these windows into a world that is at time disconnected from our own, even as it connects us with other people. But perhaps it hints that the next evolutionary step for Apple is to find a way to integrate our technology into the world around us.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦

By Jason Snell

Apple event coming Oct. 18

It’s official: there will be another Apple media event this fall, and it’s Monday, Oct. 18 at 10 Pacific.

New MacBook Pro models are likely to be the star of the show. We’ll have full coverage on Six Colors, as always. Myke Hurley and I will offer post-event coverage after it’s all said and done, live on Relay FM.

By Jason Snell

Boox Nova Air review: A multitasker among unitaskers

Left to right: Kobo Libra H2O, Kindle Oasis, iPad mini, Boox Nova Air.

Many years ago, the Internet handed around an old Radio Shack newspaper ad and pointed out that the smartphone could now replace nearly every product in the ad. So many gadgets dedicated to individual tasks that have now been rolled up into a device that’s the ultimate multitasker.

For decades we’ve been warned by Alton Brown that unitaskers are evil, and while that’s a good general rule when it comes to kitchen gadgets, every rule comes with its exceptions.

My favorite tech unitasker has long been the e-reader. With their black-and-white E Ink screen, long battery life, and laser-focused software, Kindles and Kobos have been my choice even though I have a perfectly good iPhone and iPad on which I can also read books.

While I read novels on a Kobo, I still do a lot of reading—newsletters, RSS, newspapers, links from Twitter, you name it—on my iPad. That stuff’s just not available, or readily available, on devices with E Ink screens.

But what if it was? What if someone built a tablet that could run a wider selection of apps but still had the crisp, clear look of an E Ink screen?

In fact, a few companies have been trying to marry E Ink with Android for a while now. Recently I got a chance to spend a lot of time with the Boox Nova Air, a $389 Android tablet with an E Ink display, just as I was also spending time with Apple’s $499 iPad mini. These devices, combined with my ongoing use of the $170 Kobo Libra H2O, made me think a lot more about what I really want out of a digital reading device.

Continue reading “Boox Nova Air review: A multitasker among unitaskers”…

Apple Watch Series 7 pre-orders lead to more Apple color confusion, Apple’s App Store rules may need to skate to a puck that’s headed for a courtroom, and Myke takes his iPad mini on a train.

Google’s apps to embrace iOS on iOS

Me, back in 2015:

Jeff Verkoeyen, staff engineering lead for Google Design on Apple platforms, on Twitter now:

This year my team shifted the open source Material components libraries for iOS into maintenance mode…

The time we’re saving not building custom code is now invested in the long tail of UX details that really make products feel great on Apple platforms. To paraphrase Lucas Pope, we’re “swimming in a sea of minor things”, and I couldn’t be more excited about this new direction.

One year at the XOXO conference I was buttonholed (in the nicest way) by someone who worked on iOS apps at Google, who wanted to understand why I was so hostile about Google’s apps not respecting iOS conventions and instead forcing Android conventions on iOS users.

I felt that Google arrogantly believed that people were first and foremost users of Google’s platforms, and benefited from consistency across those platforms, when the truth was that people who use iPads and iPhones expect apps to behave like every other app on the platform.1

Over the years Google has unified its design language and moved its work forward in a lot of ways that are admirable. But as Verkoeyen’s Twitter thread points out, it also takes a lot of effort to reinvent your own design language when the platform provides its own for free. It’s easier to be a standard iOS app on iOS.

This is good news. It’s good for Google’s developers, who no longer have to build that custom code. And more importantly, it’s good for people who use Google’s apps on iOS, because with any luck they’ll be updated faster, work better, and feel more like proper iOS apps, not invaders from some other platform.

[Via Steven Troughton-Smith.]

  1. Nobody had this arrogance more than Microsoft on the Mac in the ’90s. 
—Linked by Jason Snell

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