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by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Jason Snell for Tom's Guide

Why the time is right for an iPhone SE 2 ↦

The rumors are getting louder all the time — Apple is apparently getting close to launching the iPhone SE 2, the successor to 2016’s compact iPhone that turned out to be an unexpectedly popular product.

We have some of what we think are the details of this new iPhone, thanks to analyst reports about Apple’s 2020 phone release plans. But to get a better understanding of what this new iPhone SE will really be, it’s worth considering Apple’s track record — and what niche it plans for the new phone to fill.

Continue reading on Tom's Guide ↦


By Jason Snell

Clever, Powerful, Useful: Time to upgrade the Mac’s energy settings

Back in the olden days of the early 1990s, the Mac’s built-in power-management software was not great. Third-party apps filled the gap, the most impressive of which was Connectix PowerBook Utilities (CPU). As Adam Engst wrote 28 years ago(!):

CPU’s most important features are its power saving features, and these abound. First, you can easily configure the times to spin down the hard drive, rest the processor, dim the backlighting, and put the PowerBook to sleep. Second, you can activate any of these power-saving measures with a hot-key, so I often shut down the hard drive when it wasn’t doing anything because I enjoy working on a silent PowerBook… Finally, Connectix recognized that you use the PowerBook in different places, so you can create sets of settings.

cpu-computinghistory
(Centre for Computing History)

A lot of these features ended up in Mac OS, as they rightly should have, and CPU faded into oblivion. But I’ve been thinking about CPU a lot this week, after the 9to5Mac report that a “Pro Mode” may be coming to a future version of macOS. It seems to be a new setting that would decrease laptop battery life and increase fan noise in order to perform processor-intensive operations.

Fair enough. But as Marco Arment and Chance Miller pointed out last week, this feature seems to have missed the bigger opportunity on the other side of the coin: an iOS-style “Low-Power Mode” that would let MacBook users eke out longer battery life by tweaking settings, including disabling Turbo Boost on processors. A utility, Turbo Boost Switcher by Rugar Ciap (free; the pro version is $9), does this job—but throws up a warning suggesting that it might not be allowed to work with the next major version of macOS.

I’m all for the idea of a low-power mode for Macs 1, and it’s a bit perplexing to see Apple prioritize turning off all battery-saving features and cranking the fans over letting users maximize battery life.

I do have a wacky idea, though. (You knew I would.) What if Apple used the introduction of Pro Mode to adjust the default performance settings of macOS laptops? Yes, raw benchmark scores would drop, but in exchange Apple could make more expansive battery-life claims. Users who demand the best performance from their pro laptops could enable Pro Mode, which would drain that battery quickly, but in general use the laptops would run cooler and quieter and last longer. What if the way Marco uses his MacBook Pro—with Turbo Bost Switcher turned on—were the default for everyone?

Of course, a better idea would be to provide users with more granular power-management controls, perhaps even with location-aware presets like Connectix PowerBook Utilities offered in the early 90s. I know that Apple’s tendency is to prevent users from fiddling with their computers’ settings in detail, but let’s be honest—the Energy Saver system preference pane is already an enormous collection of sliders and checkboxes. Adding a few more wouldn’t hurt anyone.

It’s not like this isn’t already a complex spot.

While we’re at it, can we finally add a Low Data Mode to macOS as well? For years I’ve extolled the virtues of TripMode, an $8 utility that lets you control what Mac apps have access to the Internet if you’re using a slow or metered connection. That’s a feature that should just be built into macOS, though perhaps not with the level of granularity that TripMode offers. (It’s a classic Mac approach to build a new feature with a very simple set of user options, and then allow third parties to offer more complex interfaces on top of that same feature for the users who really care—so the introduction of a Low Data Mode need not be the end of powerful apps like TripMode.)

Offering macOS apps better control over data usage would also perhaps open the door for cellular-equipped Mac laptops a bit wider. I’ve been using a cellular iPad Pro for the last few years, and I would never go back. The convenience of not having to tether to a phone or worry about the quality of the local Wi-Fi is worth the extra cost, and it’s a shame that MacBook users don’t have the chance to make that choice.


  1. I’d like one for iPads, too. ↩


Dan Moren for Macworld

Acquiring minds want to know: a peek inside Apple’s most recent corporate acquisitions ↦

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it dozens of times: “Apple buys smaller technology companies from time to time, and we generally do not discuss our purpose or plans.”

When it comes to its corporate acquisitions, Cupertino likes to play its cards very close to its chest. Of course, that doesn’t stop industry watchers from peering at the tea leaves to see if they can divine exactly what the company might be working on.

And, hey, I’m no different than those folks, because Apple does so little to telegraph its plans that even a boilerplate statement confirming an acquisition is a rare peek behind the curtain. Apple CEO Tim Cook said not long ago that the company makes an acquisition every two to three weeks, and not even all of those make it into the public eye. So let’s take a look at the firms that we do know Apple has acquired recently and see what we can glean.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


By Jason Snell

Fun With Charts: A decade of Apple growth

I wrote a throwaway line in last week’s set of charts about just how the Apple of 2020 is not the Apple of 2010 just as the Apple of 2010 was not the Apple of 2000. I deleted the reference because I thought the thought deserved its own chart and its own article, which is this one.

Here’s the chart: This is total Apple revenue for each fiscal year (shifted a quarter from the real calendar—on January 28 we’ll hear the results of Apple’s fiscal first quarter of 2020) since 2009.

A decade of Apple revenue.

Apple left the previous decade 1 as a company that was generating 43 billion dollars in revenue every fiscal year. It exited the 2010s generating 260 billion. Or to put it another way, The Apple of January 2020 is roughly six times the size of the Apple of January 2010.

I have been making charts based on Apple’s financials every three months for most of the last decade, and if there’s one thing that I think the charts don’t properly convey, it’s just how explosive Apple’s growth has been. The iPhone’s growth in the middle of the decade changed the game. And while that growth has slowed or stopped, it leaves Apple as a company that is working at a scale that’s nothing like it was when Steve Jobs was in his final years as CEO.

Let’s break that growth down by product line.

iPhone sales figures

Apple’s iPhone growth essentially parallels its overall growth. The iPhone is the engine that drove Apple’s growth in the 2010s, peaking at $165 billion in revenue in 2018. In 2011, Apple made more money on the iPhone than the entire company had earned just two years earlier. When you can increase your revenue in a product category by an order of magnitude in a decade, you’ve had a really good decade.

This is not to say that Apple’s other product lines didn’t have success in the decade.

iPad sales figures

Yes, the iPad peaked early, with three $30 billion years from 2012 to 2014. But it’s settled in as a $20 billion/year business, which is pretty good—and keep in mind, the iPad didn’t exist until the spring of 2010.

The Mac’s story in the 2010s is less dramatic:

Mac sales figures

The decade was clearly a success for the Mac, but it was an incremental success. The Mac business didn’t quite double between 2009 and 2019, but it came close. The first decade of this century was one of enormous growth for the Mac, but this one was still pretty good, if not spectacular.


  1. If you want to argue that the decade of the 2020s does not include 2020 but does include 2030, take your coat and go. That breed of pedantry’s not welcome in this establishment. ↩

Continue Reading "Fun With Charts: A decade of Apple growth"


Podcast

The Rebound 272: I Want Every Possible Option

This week, on the irreverent podcast that’s fully powered up for 2020, John’s got a bigger phone…sort of. Plus, Lex has some thoughts on notifications, Dan is still frustrated by browser changes, and everybody’s got their fill of euphemisms.

Episode linkMP3 (34 minutes)


Podcast

Clockwise #329: Forgetting as a Service

This week, on the 30-minute tech show whose longevity is no puzzle, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Lisa Schmeiser and Casey Liss to discuss our best security practices, the services we’d still like to see from tech companies, our thoughts on Twitter’s new experimental reply system, and the last apps we fell in love with. Plus a brain-teasing bonus topic!

Episode linkMP3 (29 minutes)


Jason Snell for Macworld

It’s time for new hardware at the center of Apple’s home strategy ↦

Tech companies are still investing huge amounts of time and energy in smart-home products, as the recent Consumer Electronics Show displayed. A year ago, Apple hired a new head of home products—but it hasn’t yet resulted in a lot of visible changes to Apple’s strategy.

The biggest move so far is Apple’s joining forces with its competitors to form an alliance to encourage smart-home interoperability. That’s a good start, and I’m hopeful that Apple can begin to push HomeKit forward in 2020.

Last year, I suggested that Apple make a new version of the Apple TV and HomePod that works as a TV soundbar. I’d still like to see that product. But now, for 2020, here’s another hardware suggestion: Apple can contribute to the smart-home industry and its own bottom line by doing what it does best, namely creating a new product that’s a fusion of hardware, software, and cloud services. It’s time for Apple to build a product that makes your home smarter and more secure. It’s time for Apple Home.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Podcast

Upgrade #280: De Niro Can’t Bend

With Myke reporting live from Hollywood, we discuss Netflix’s record Oscar nominations, and Apple’s first TV award and TV critic press tour. Jason makes a chart that explains why Apple execs can’t stop talking about Services and Wearables. Then we both give updates on our home-office upgrades, Jason abandons his solar dream, and Myke turns to mechanical keyboards for solace.

Episode linkMP3 (1 hour, 33 minutes)


Linked by Dan Moren

The last Macintosh

Over at TidBITS, my pal Adam Engst points out the last place that Apple uses the full word “Macintosh.” I have to admit, when I wracked my brain to try and figure it out, I couldn’t think of where it might be—and, of course, it was under my nose the whole time.

Then again, everything old is eventually new again, so who knows when Macintosh might get its resurgence?


Dan Moren for Macworld

Apple’s security and privacy is good, but could be even better ↦

Buckle up, because we’re poised for another battle on digital security. The FBI has reputedly asked for Apple’s help unlocking phones belonging of the alleged shooter from the Pensacola air base incident last year. Apple, for its part, claims it has already turned over to law enforcement all the information it has access to.

If you feel like we’ve been here before, it’s because we have. Back in 2016, the FBI wanted Apple to unlock a phone belonging to the San Bernardino shooter; Apple declined to help, as doing so would have potentially compromised the security of all of its devices. Eventually, the bureau sought help from an Israeli-based cyber security firm who was able to hack into phone in question.

Leaving aside the dangers inherent in the creation of backdoors into the technology we all rely upon, I think this is as good a time as any for Apple to double down on its (already pretty solid) security focus. Because when it comes to digital information and our devices, what we need is not less security, but more.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


By Jason Snell

Fun With Charts: Why Apple’s Services and Wearables are in the spotlight

Every three months, we get to peer inside Apple’s business via the financial disclosures that are mandatory for American public corporations. (The company will reveal the specifics of its holiday quarter on January 28.) Four years ago, aware that the days of rapid iPhone growth were over, Apple began to talk up its Services category. Three years ago, the company set itself a goal — doubling its service revenue by 2020.

The rise of the Apple Watch and AirPods as successful products has led to Apple drawing attention to another category that didn’t previously get a lot of love. It was once the junk drawer of Apple financial categories, sporting the catchy label “Other Products,” until the company re-named it “Wearables, Home, and Accessories.” There are a lot of products in that category, but it’s clear that most of the growth is being driven by watches and wireless earbuds at this point.

Here’s a chart to put the growth in these two categories in perspective:

Chart of services and wearable revenue

In 2016 Apple generated $26 billion in services revenue, and in 2019 that grew to $46 billion. That means it only needs to show modest growth in 2020 to hit that target of doubling revenue—it shouldn’t be a problem, especially if you consider the track record of growth in Services, as shown in this chart:

Going back to fiscal 2015 you can’t find a single quarter in which Services didn’t grow by a double-digit percentage over the year-ago quarter. Services growth has been constant for half a decade. What’s even more notable for Apple is that this isn’t seasonal revenue. That makes sense, because services are generally not one-time purchases—they’re subscriptions that are ongoing, which means that money tends to get spread over the year rather than appearing in a single quarter.

That’s in contrast to a lot of Apple’s individual product sales, which are much more seasonal. It’s likely that Apple’s results announcement on January 28 will reveal Apple’s biggest sales quarter in its history—because a whole lot of people buy Apple products during the holiday season.

The Other/Wearables category hasn’t shown steady growth for as long as Services, probably because of choppy waters in the first couple of years of Apple Watch sales. (The Apple Watch went on sale in the spring of 2015 and the category got a huge injection of revenue, but couldn’t live up to those numbers in a 2016 sophomore slump.)

However, as much as we talk about Apple’s Services line as a bright spot in its business, the Wearables category has really been something to behold for the last few years. Eight straight quarters of 30% or larger growth year-over-year, and growth shot up to right around 50% in the two most recent quarters.

Sometimes it’s also useful to place Apple’s different product categories in the context of the overall Apple business. Apple exited the 2010s with six times the annual revenue that it entered them with. Overall growth like that can make it hard to see how any individual category fits into the bigger picture, so let me chart Services and Wearables together as a percentage of Apple’s overall revenue:

This chart is quarter-by-quarter, so you can see the seasonality that’s a part of Apple’s overall business. Still, you can see how the massive growth of these two categories has affected the overall revenue mix at Apple.

It’s not quite as visually impressive as the other charts, I know. But back in the middle of fiscal 2015 these two categories amounted for 16 percent of Apple’s total business. In Apple’s most recent quarter, they were 30 percent of revenue.

So when you read about Tim Cook emphasizing Services and Wearables to financial analysts or in a quick interview on CNBC come January 28—this is why. In less than half a decade, Services and Wearables have gone from afterthoughts to a third of Apple’s business.


Podcast

The Rebound 271: Here’s Another Stupid Robot

This week, on the irreverent tech show that can’t pronounce words, we discuss the latest “news” out of CES, John is still pining for a smaller phone, James has gotten thrown under the TV bus, and Dan is just hearing about this stupid robot that follows you around. But at least everything else in the world is going okay, right?

Episode linkMP3 (45 minutes)


Podcast

Clockwise #328: Kicking off 2020 for the Second Time

This week, on the 30-minute tech podcast that’s in 2020 for reals, Dan and Mikah are joined by special guests Christina Warren and Zac Hall to discuss the coolest and weirdest announcements from CES, podcasts we’d like to see made into books, whether we’re still downloading new apps, and our experiences with the Apple Watch Breathe app and meditation. Plus a special cooking-related bonus topic!

Episode linkMP3 (26 minutes)


Linked by Jason Snell

John Siracusa (re)wrote an app

John Siracusa has needs. Needs that weren’t being fulfilled by the modern Mac ecosystem. So he convinced his friend Lee Fyock to write an app to solve his problems, and then he rewrote that app himself 1 and put it in the Mac App Store:

Front and Center is a trivial app—so trivial that I was afraid it would be rejected for its limited functionality. But when running, it is used literally hundreds of times a day. And I obviously found it so essential that I was willing to help bring it into existence myself. I also wanted to get some experience with the financial side of the App Store.

Anyway, Front and Center is a utility that brings all the windows of a particular app to the front when you click on one of them. Because sometimes the old ways are best. It’s available now for $3 on the Mac App Store.


  1. Because of course he did. ↩


Linked by Jason Snell

How I rip DVDs and Blu-Rays in 2020

It’s come to my attention that it’s been five years since I updated my story about how I rip DVDs and Blu-Rays on my Mac. It was so long ago that I was still using iTunes Sharing to make those videos available on my Apple TV! These days it’s all about Plex.

In the intervening time, my workflow has changed pretty dramatically. macOS updates have made HandBrake more of a secondary tool than a primary one, and I’m relying almost entirely on the $50 utility MakeMKV and some free encoding scripts from Don Melton. I’ve updated my post with what I’m doing these days.


Jason Snell for Macworld

Why the iPad needs to embrace mice and trackpads ↦

Last week, Brydge, the company that makes my favorite add-on keyboard for the iPad, announced a new iPad Pro accessory that includes both a keyboard and a trackpad. Adding external pointing devices to the iPad wasn’t possible until iOS 13 added support for Bluetooth mice as a part of the Assistive Touch suite of accessibility features.

While some will consider the mere possibility of adding a mouse or trackpad to an iPad to be sacrilege, I prefer to see it as an additional option that can improve the iPad’s flexibility in certain circumstances. However, Apple’s support for external pointing devices is very much a first draft. It needs to continue pushing this feature forward in iPadOS 14—and in doing so, the platform could reap some surprising rewards.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦


Linked by Jason Snell

LaunchCuts: A launcher for shortcuts

On MacStories, Federico Viticci reviews LaunchCuts, an $8 Shortcuts utility:

LaunchCuts is the latest entry in a series of meta-utilities designed to extend Apple’s Shortcuts app with new functionalities… [it’s] is the most peculiar and niche I’ve tested….

If you have less than 20 shortcuts installed on your iPhone or iPad, you’re likely not going to get much benefit out of LaunchCuts’ advanced organizational tools; but if you’re like me and use hundreds of different shortcuts on a regular basis, and especially if your library has grown out of control over the past few years, you’re going to need the assistance of LaunchCuts to make sense of it all.

Federico has the right attitude about this app: It’s not for most people, or even most Shortcuts users. However, it does solve a fundamental problem that the Shortcuts app has had since it was called Workflow: A complete lack of ability to filter the shortcuts list, which can get out of control in a hurry.

I tend to run most of my Shortcuts from the Share sheet or via a widget, but whenever I am creating or editing Shortcuts, I have to drift slowly through the largely unordered Shortcuts interface to find what I want. It’s something that Apple should’ve addressed already, but at least LaunchCuts provides a clever hack to simplify things in the meantime for those who have more than a couple dozen shortcuts.

(LaunchCuts is available in the App Store.)


Linked by Jason Snell

Sonos: Google stole our technology

Jack Nicas and Daisuke Wakabayashi of the New York Times report on Sonos suing Google, alleging that Google (and Amazon!) ripped off its patented technology to launch its own smart speakers:

Google released a small device that could turn an old speaker into a wireless one, much like Sonos’s original product. A year after that, Google released its own wireless speaker, the Google Home. The device, marketed around Google’s talking virtual assistant, quickly began outselling Sonos’s offerings… Sonos bought the Google devices and used a technique called packet sniffing that monitored how the speakers were communicating. They discovered that Google’s devices used Sonos’s approach for solving a variety of technological challenges. Sonos executives said they found Amazon’s Echo speakers had also copied Sonos technology.

I suppose I appreciate Google’s gall in allegedly ripping off Sonos’s tech in order to sell products in Sonos’s category at artificially low prices to prop up other parts of Google’s ecosystem. That’s quite the double play.

As Ian Betteridge put it:


Linked by Jason Snell

A decade of Apple on one page

Benjamin Mayo of 9to5Mac did the work to round up Apple’s entire decade of the 2010s, from the iPad to the iPhone 11:

The best way to describe this post is that it is the the decade as I remember it. I intentionally ignored some things that I deemed as inconsequential. I have tried to cover everything that I think had a direct relevance on the course of the company, at least from my perspective.

That’s the only way to approach one of these stories. It was quite a decade for Apple; the company in 2020 is in many ways unrecognizable from the company it was at the start of 2010.


Linked by Jason Snell

Downlink 2.0 brings more Earth options to your desktop

downlink-2-imac
Downlink 2 lets me crop my particular corner of our planet.

Space fan and podcaster Anthony Colangelo has updated his utility, Downlink, to version 2.0. Downlink powers my Mac’s desktop background, providing “live” (updated a few times an hour) satellite imagery of the Earth. My desktop is always the west coast of North America and the eastern Pacific Ocean, so I can always see what weather might be coming my way.

New in this version is support for custom views of the Earth, cropped out of one of three different full-disk images. Not only can you now make your own custom view, but these new image sources don’t have the political lines drawn like the previous image sources do. Now you can choose whether to use source images that draw borders, or ones that show the Earth as it looks from above—clouds and sea and desert and not a straight line to be seen.

Downlink 2.0 is now on the Mac App Store, and it’s free.