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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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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.

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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

October 8, 2021

Who watches the Apple Watcher? Deep thoughts for a Friday.

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By Stephen Hackett

Considering Tim Cook’s record, ten years after Jobs’ passing

Back in August, we passed the 10th anniversary of Tim Cook being named CEO of Apple, and of course, this week marks ten years since the passing of Steve Jobs.

A lot of water has gone under the bridge in the decade since, and in my mind, there are three major inflection points when it comes to Apple under Tim Cook.

Apple Watch

Announced in the fall of 2014, many say the Apple Watch is the first new product to materialize under Tim Cook. While the exact timeline isn’t known, I think it’s clear that the Apple Watch is a very Tim Cook product with its focus on health and fitness.

The Apple Watch has come a long way in the years since its introduction, but looking back at the original announcement and the first set of models, it is surprising how muddied things were. Apple didn’t quite seem to know what the Apple Watch was for yet, so it threw a lot of stuff at the wall.…

This is a post limited to Six Colors members.

By Dan Moren

Under the Gavel: Antitrust concerns are here, there, everywhere

Many years ago, when I first started writing about Apple on the MacUser blog, one of my first recurring features was a series I called “Under the Gavel”, in which I rounded up legal challenges to Apple.

Those challenges haven’t abated over the last several years—if anything, they’ve intensified. In fact, just in the last day or two, there have been several new places where Apple has found itself on the receiving ends of government investigations or legal actions. So, if you’ll allow me to indulge in a bit of a trip down nostalgia lane, I’m briefly dusting off the old gavel to break down these latest developments.

Can’t tap, won’t tap

Reuters reports that the European Union is preparing to bring antitrust charges against Apple over the locking down of the Near-Field Communications (NFC) chip in the iPhone. That’s the wireless radio that powers things like Apple Pay—which is precisely what’s dragged the company into the EU’s crosshairs.

At issue is the fact that while Apple uses the iPhone and Apple Watch’s NFC chips for Apple Pay, it doesn’t allow third-party developers to take advantage of the hardware for the same purpose. Therefore, companies like Square or Venmo can’t leverage the technology for tap-to-pay features in their own apps without using Apple Pay—of which Apple, of course, gets a cut.

These charges stem from an investigation that started last year into Apple Pay more broadly, and will likely not be issued until next year. One possible consequence could be a fine of up to 10 percent of Apple’s global revenue, which, while it wouldn’t sink the company, would still be painful.

Going Dutch

Also on the topic of payment, the Netherlands has taken aim at Apple’s in-app payment system, perhaps the company’s most popular punching bag at the moment. A story in Reuters says that Dutch antitrust regulators are accusing Apple of abusing its market power by forcing app developers to use its in-app payment system. The official decision is expected to become public later this year, but it seems as though rather than fining the company, the Dutch regulator is expected to insist on changes of the system.

This comes just two months after South Korea passed a law that would target payment systems in app marketplaces, and a month after a decision in the U.S. courts over anti-steering provisions, the ultimate effect of which remains to be seen.

It’s unlikely that the Netherlands will be the last country to take umbrage at Apple’s business practices, raising the question of whether the company intends to make country-by-country exceptions to its App Store, or get ahead of the matter with more sweeping, global policy changes.

(Too) Big in Japan

Having settled one antitrust matter with the Japan Fair Trade Commission (JFTC)—which led to a global policy change about “reader” apps—Apple may have thought itself out of the spotlight in that country. But now the JFTC has launched a new investigation, this time into Apple’s dominance of the OS market, according to Nikkei Asia.

Apple reportedly controls almost 70 percent of the mobile operating system market in Japan, with Android making up the other 30 percent. The JFTC will thus be investigating how that market dominance comes into play, and whether or not Apple and Google are using their positions to limit competition. (It will also look into related markets like wearables.)

The investigation is, of course, not guaranteed to yield charges against Apple. At the moment, it’s merely a study that will talk to app developers, users, and the companies themselves, culminating in a report detailing any anticompetitive practices. This is likely to be a bit of a slower burn than the other cases, which expect decisions more imminently, but it’s also casting a much wider net, which could mean a higher probability that the JFTC takes action on something.

Just the beginning

As I wrote over at Macworld a few months back, Apple’s position as one of the biggest companies in the world has not only painted a target on its back, but also means that its biggest threats come not from competitors, but from government regulation and legislation. While the stock market often looks for growth at all costs, it’s not without risk: the bigger you get, the more scrutiny you receive from everybody, including governments around the world. Because when your company is the size of a country, the only thing that poses a threat to you is other countries.

[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.]

Facebook went down, so we spend our time talking about Steve Jobs and the Apple of yesteryear.

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