A new iPhone SE will probably arrive some day, unlike some other potential Apple products I could mention (cough, car and low-cost Vision Pro). Meanwhile Jony Ive is keeping busy hastening the robot apocalypse.
SE what I did there?
If you don’t have the bank for an iPhone 15, let alone an iPhone 15 Pro, don’t fret. A new iPhone SE is on the horizon. Wayyy over there between the land and the sky.
The new SE, which isn’t expected until 2025, will reportedly have the same form factor as the iPhone 14, but will feature an action button and, of course, USB-C connectivity. It would be the first SE with Face ID rather than Touch ID and is reportedly being used to test Apple’s own 5G modem.
And thus was Tim Cook finally brought low—not by Apple’s anti-union practices, nor by his continued willingness to do business with a charming individual like Elon Musk, nor even by Apple’s questionable relationships with the Chinese government.
But by an iPhone case.
The tapestry of Cook’s descent is woven finely, with threads coalescing from across his tenure. As the history books tell us, the beginning of the end for Tim Cook’s regime at Apple, those many years ago, was precipitated by what seemed the most reasonable of initiatives: replacing leather goods with a more environmentally sustainable material. After all, who ever got in trouble for not slaughtering a sacred cow?
The problem, however, lay in the new material. An attempt to ape the feel of premium suede, it proved vulnerable to scratches, easily stained, and less durable than the animal-based material it had supplanted.
All of that would have been bad enough, but the subsequent revelation that the so-called fabric was nothing more than cut-up patches of Eddy Cue’s suits shook the Apple community to its very core.…
My thanks to Kolide for sponsoring Six Colors this week.
Getting OS updates installed on end user devices should be easy, but of course it isn’t. Forcing restarts without user approval will lead to data loss (and angry users), but most users don’t install updates themselves!
OS updates are the single most common issue Kolide’s customers want them to
solve. Kolide reaches out to users directly with instructions on how to get their devices into compliance. The user chooses when to restart, but if they don’t fix the problem by a predetermined deadline, they’re unable to authenticate with Okta.
Apple updated almost every system app in watchOS 10. Unfortunately, the redesign of the Timer app is a serious regression, according to Iconfactory developer Craig Hockenberry:
The new visual appearance and functionality of watchOS 10 is a welcome change. There was clearly a lot of design and engineering effort put into this new interface and the improvements are tangible for most apps.
Unfortunately, the app that I use the most on the Apple Watch has lost much of its usability, both in functionality and accessibility.
Using plenty of examples and use cases, Hockenberry masterfully chronicles all the ways the new app fails him and, presumably, many other users. The details matter.
One of the biggest imprints Steve Jobs and Jony Ive left on Apple’s design process is a certain kind of product idealism. At its best, Apple is striving to take ridiculously complex products, fusions of cutting-edge computer hardware design and eye-wateringly enormous software code bases, and make them simple.
It’s a philosophy that has led Apple to build wildly successful products that its customers love. And there’s one new iPhone 15 feature that perfectly illustrates why Apple’s idealism can take it to very interesting places.
macOS Sonoma is an update that feels small—but in all the best ways. Upgrading it won’t change how you look at your Mac, at least not at first. This means that if you’re desperate for change to longstanding features of macOS, you will not find what you’re looking for in macOS Sonoma. I suspect, however, that most Mac users just want incremental improvements without disruptive changes. Slow and steady wins the race.
To be sure, Apple is tinkering quite a bit around the edges, but mostly in the sense of minor features getting a facelift or new quality-of-life features that span across its platforms. If all the effort expended getting visionOS ready to ship has meant that things are quieter than usual around these parts, so be it. macOS Sonoma will make portions of your Mac experience better (with some really nice detail work on Apple’s part!) without breaking the stuff you count on. That’s my kind of update.
Free the widgets
iOS 14 introduced a new form of attractive informational widget to the iPhone, and iOS 15 extended it to the iPad. macOS Big Sur introduced widgets to the Mac, but in the least visible way, trapped in the Notification Center sidebar.
With Sonoma (and iOS and iPadOS), widgets can now be interactive, but more importantly for the Mac, they can now go where no Apple widget—not even Dashboard widgets, back in the day1—has gone before. In macOS Sonoma, widgets can live in Notification Center or on the Desktop.
Widgets live on the Desktop, stuck to it like a bunch of stickers, rather than floating in some sort of weird interstitial layer. As a result, Widgets can never float above your windows. If your windows are covering up the Desktop, the only way to see widgets is to move, close, or hide those windows. (I’ve been giving the Reveal Desktop command—accessible via function key or by spreading your fingers out on a trackpad—a real workout.) To make it a little easier, Apple has also imported a convention from Stage Manager, in which clicking on the Desktop hides everything but the Desktop. It makes sense, I suppose, but I hate it—my years of bringing Finder forward by clicking on the Desktop make it a nonstarter—and thankfully, Apple has given users the option to turn that gesture off when they’re not in Stage Manager.
The “stuck to the Desktop” approach is simple, and I think that’s why Apple chose it, but I’m a little disappointed that there’s no way to float a widget or the entire widget layer above Mac windows, even temporarily. If you want to work with a widget (they’re interactive now, after all) while looking at content in a standard window, you’ll need to rearrange or hide windows, which is probably more work than it’s worth.
Apple has also chosen by default to have widgets become desaturated of color—and therefore be a bit less obnoxious—when the Desktop/Finder isn’t selected. It definitely reduces the distraction, though widgets are also a lot less pretty when they’re desaturated. Fortunately, if you don’t mind the distraction, you can set widgets to display in full color all of the time. I chose this setting and got used to color widgets pretty quickly. (If you prefer the monochromatic look, you can also choose for widgets to remain monochromatic all the time.)
Of course, one of the other big limitations of widgets on macOS has been that they require a corresponding macOS app—and some iPhone and iPad apps with cool widgets never make their way to macOS. To counteract this problem, Apple has added a feature that lets iPhone widgets run on the Mac. If your iPhone is on the same network as your Mac or within AirDrop distance, its apps will be available on the Mac. (They obviously won’t work if the iPhone leaves the house.)
It’s a pretty cool idea, and when it works, it feels like magic. I added a widget I built for my iPhone using Simon Støvring’s Scriptable app, which isn’t available on the Mac, and it worked, miraculously.
Unfortunately, iOS 17’s entire widget architecture feels a little bit shaky right now. Occasionally, widgets just stop updating or go completely blank, especially if there’s been an update in the App Store (or, for beta users, via TestFlight). I’ve restarted my iPhone more in the last few months than I had in the previous few years, all because it was the only way to get my widgets to start updating again. And when an iPhone widget turned into a zombie on iOS, it vanished entirely from my Mac’s Desktop. It’s frustrating, and Apple needs to get this issue fixed.
I’m impressed with the work Apple has put into how you arrange widgets on the Desktop. It’s essentially free-form; you can put widgets anywhere. But when the widget you’re dragging gets close to other widgets, it will snap into alignment with those widgets.
At first, I thought the entire Desktop was a grid, but that’s not what’s happening—Apple’s just making it easy for adjacent widgets to look properly aligned. (Items that live on the Desktop can’t be lost under widgets, either—as you drag a widget around, all the other items on your Desktop get out of the way.)
These touches say a lot about Apple’s priorities. The company wants widgets on the Mac desktop to not look messy, and it’s done a lot of extra work to make that so.
While it’s nice to have widgets on the Mac, the fact is that they’re imports from iOS and iPadOS and, as a result, don’t quite fit right. All widgets feel a bit too large, especially if you’re trying to use them on a laptop display—the appropriate scale for iOS just seems a bit wrong for macOS.
Then there’s the entire concept of the “interactive widget,” which is a real winner on iOS 17 but mostly a nonsequitur on macOS. Yes, your to-do list app now comes with a widget that displays items you can check off… but on the Mac, why not just have your to-do app open to do that task? The Mac is such an able multitasker, and its multi-window interface is so powerful that this feature is blunted quite a bit. This is not to say that there aren’t use cases for interactive widgets on the Mac… it’s just that they’re a lot less exciting.
Widgets are great when it comes to glanceability. It’s nice to lay that weather widget on my Desktop and know that I can just peek over in the corner of my screen to see the current temperature and forecast. But even here, the Mac’s flexibility blunts the value somewhat: most Macs are laptops, and laptops have limited screen space. Is a big widget from iOS sitting on your Desktop (and requiring window management to reveal it) a better glanceable experience than putting items in the Mac’s original glanceable space, the menu bar? Sometimes, the answer will be yes, but it all feels less necessary than on iOS.
Live from Memphis in the aftermath of the Relay FM Podcastathon, Myke and Jason take delivery of new iPhones and Apple Watches. Also, General Motors continues its drive for Apple-like services revenue.
One ability apparently pitched by executives was the ability to invest in Apple shares using spare cash.
Trader, can you spare a dime?
Was this just an elaborate scheme to get people to actually use the Stocks app? Alas, we may never know as this plan was shelved.
When markets worsened last year, Apple and Goldman Sachs shelved the project due to fears over backlash if users lost money in the stock market, and refocused attention on a high-interest savings account for Apple Card users.
As I write this I’m sitting at St. Jude, about three hours into our 12-hour podcast telethon in support of St. Jude’s goal of stopping childhood cancer. I’m one of four hosts along with Stephen Hackett, Myke Hurley, and Kathy Campbell.
My thanks to BZG Apps, maker of Unite 5, for sponsoring Six Colors this week.
Unite 5 for macOS takes your web experience to the next level, transforming websites into feature-rich Mac apps. Powered by a completely redesigned WebKit browser, Unite 5 offers a more immersive and customizable browsing experience.
Unite’s new intricate link-forwarding rules give users unparalleled control over web interactions, making web apps smarter and more integrated than ever before. Create a Gmail client with seamless macOS integration, a resource-efficient Slack or Discord app, or even a dedicated app for ChatGPT or Claude.AI.
Apple works very hard to try and manage the massive preorder demand for day-one iPhone deliveries every year.1 Apple originally allowed members of the iPhone Upgrade Program customers to set their orders up in advance, but eventually allowed everyone to pre-configure their phones before the official order time, leaving only the matter of the financial transaction to that Friday. Pre-approvals from financial institutions were started earlier than the Friday to try and prevent the rejections that happen when servers start melting down.
And yet, there’s still always some drama.
Some people live for that adrenaline rush of not knowing what will go wrong. Whether or not their orders for themselves, and family members, will all make it across that finish line. Oh, the stories they can tell about how they had the perfect Apple Store app force-quit workflow! Those people are living on the chamfered edge.
There are also people who were never in that group, or phased out of that group.…
Ah, September: the time of years when hot summer days turn to crisp autumn ones, leaves are burnished in shades of red and gold, and pumpkin spice begins its inexorable creep back into all our lives. But if you breathe deep you can just smell something else on the air: fresh Apple software updates.
Yes, Apple this week dropped a slew of revisions to almost all of its major platforms (sorry, macOS, you have to wait until next week). You’ve no doubt already read of contact posters, new widget interfaces, and FaceTime on the Apple TV, but I wanted to take a few moments to wax rhapsodic about a few of my favorite overlooked features—and, specifically, features that help you not overlook things.
Because this year’s updates all provide better ways to navigate the world around us, and even without a second-generation ultra wideband chip, you can still find exactly what you’re looking for.