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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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Project CHIP devices will start rolling out in late 2021

Stacey Higginbotham of Stacey on IoT has some details on the upcoming launch of products based on the new Connected Home over IP standard that counts Apple, Amazon, and Google as members:

Today we learned a lot. Specifically, we know that the 180 member companies (there were 170 at the beginning of the year) are hosting certification testing events that will run through September and that the companies who participate in those events will likely be the first to get their products certified in “late 2021.” This means we’ll likely see CHIP-certified devices in time for the holidays. The panelists also confirmed that CHIP devices will use Wi-Fi for high bandwidth applications and Thread for low bandwidth applications. The standard will also use Bluetooth Low Energy for device provisioning, which is a nice win for BLE because those radios will still be inside most smart home devices. That makes sense given that provisioning is likely to happen in most homes using a mobile handset.

Of course, all three of those technologies are included in the HomePod mini already, which means that Apple’s well positioned to offer it as a smart home hub once the CHIP devices start appearing.

According to Higginbotham’s report, the first devices to roll out will be “lighting, blinds, HVAC, TVs, access controls, safety & security products, access points, smart home controllers, and bridges.”

As to how existing devices will cope with the new standard, that seems like it will vary based on the manufacturer and whether or not they decide to update those devices, as well as the technological capabilities, such as having the correct radio chips and sufficient memory.

There are some other outstanding questions, the biggest of which revolve around how devices from Apple, Amazon, and Google will work with the new system. For those hoping for a unified smart home future, there may still be some stumbling blocks on the way.

By Jason Snell

1800 miles (with shortcuts) in a Tesla Model 3

Last week we visited my mother in Arizona for the first time in more than a year. Driving 1800 miles and trading sitting isolated in one house for sitting isolated in another isn’t the most pulse-pounding Spring Break you’d ever imagine, but there was one thing that added novelty to the trip: A friend of mine who is currently working overseas for a year kindly offered to let us take a road trip in his Tesla Model 3, which was literally gathering dust in his boss’s garage. Before this trip I had been a passenger in a Tesla exactly one time, for less than 20 miles.

1,859 miles on the trip meter
The whole trip.

I figured that spending nearly two thousand miles in a Tesla would teach me some things about the current state of electric cars and long-range trips with charging stops, about the all-screen interface of the Tesla Model 3, and about how a Tesla interacts with an iPhone. And I was right—as the valley, city, and desert landscapes whizzed by, I learned an awful lot.

Continue reading “1800 miles (with shortcuts) in a Tesla Model 3″…

What we’d track with Apple Find My, our Samsung Unpacked predictions, what we expect from Apple’s April event, and a rant about Apple TV.

The firm that cracked the iPhone for the FBI

Back in 2016, the FBI and Apple clashed over unlocking an iPhone belonging to the San Bernardino shooter, Syed Rizwan Farook. Things looked tense for a bit, as a showdown over encryption loomed, but the FBI ultimately unlocked the device without Apple’s help.

Now, the Washington Post‘s Ellen Nakashima and Reed Albergotti have pieced together a story about the events around the unlocking and security company that helped the FBI:

Two Azimuth hackers teamed up to break into the San Bernardino iPhone, according to the people familiar with the matter, who like others quoted in this article, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters. Founder Mark Dowd, 41, is an Australian coder who runs marathons and who, one colleague said, “can pretty much look at a computer and break into it.” One of his researchers was David Wang, who first set hands on a keyboard at age 8, dropped out of Yale, and by 27 had won a prestigious Pwnie Award — an Oscar for hackers — for “jailbreaking” or removing the software restrictions of an iPhone.

Wang would subsequently go on to co-found Corellium, a software firm that developed technology to virtualize iOS for, among other applications, security research. Corellium was later sued by Apple for copyright infringement, though the case was dismissed. It’s a fascinating little winding tale.

The resilience of Tito

I’ve gotten to know Paul Campbell over the past few years because he was the co-organizer of the Apple-focused Úll conference. But he’s also the co-founder of Tito, a company focused on event ticketing. (Disclosure: A few years back I was paid to perform podcast interviews for a conference run by Tito.)

As you might expect, as a company focused on live events, Tito got hit hard by COVID-19. What’s remarkable is that the company immediately reacted by building Vito, a platform for hosting community-first online events.

Anyway, in the context of receiving some investment funding, today Paul provided a bit of a status report:

Tito is still alive and people still love it. We actually managed to complete most of the work on the product updates from last year and those will ship out of beta soon. Watch this space.

We’ve quietly been shaping Vito into our vision for creating engaging online community spaces that strengthen the relationship between organisers, sponsors and participants.

I’ve never been more excited to work on anything than I am with Vito, and that’s even after the toughest year we’ve ever had.

I was very impressed by how the people at Tito took the gut punch from COVID-19 and decided it was an opportunity to build something they’d always considered as a future project, immediately.

‘Ian’s Awesome Counter’

David Smith released a new app today. This isn’t news. He’s one of the most productive app developers on the planet.

What’s news is that it’s an Apple Watch app he designed with his son, for his son, to solve a very particular problem:

My son, Ian, can sometimes have difficulty with regulation and management of his attention. We’ve tried several different strategies for helping him with this. One of the strategies that we found most successful was giving him regular prompts throughout the day and asking whether he thought he was on task and staying focused….

So Ian and I sat down and designed an Apple Watch version of the concept to make it easier to keep with us at all times… The app he and I wrote that afternoon was rough but it did the job and we’ve used it ever since. (He also drew the icon for the app!)

It’s called Ian’s Awesome Counter and who knows, it might be helpful for someone in your life, too.

By Jason Snell for Macworld

Apple may be on the brink of a smart home breakthrough

Sometimes if you stare at something too long, you begin to see patterns that aren’t really there. I’m worried that this is happening to me when it comes to pondering Apple’s smart home strategy. Has it been rebooted? Are we about to see Apple sweep back into smart-home categories with some exciting new spins on familiar products? Now that the original HomePod has been laid to rest, is it time for Apple to shine?

I want to believe. But am I just convincing myself of things that aren’t true?

Continue reading on Macworld ↦

The mystery of “white spots” on Apple trade ins

The Verge’s Nick Statt has an in-depth story on customers who have run into mysterious “white spots” when trading their devices in to Apple via its partner Phobio:

The situation soon changed after his laptop arrived for inspection. Suddenly, McGloin was told his MacBook was worth just $140, less than half what Apple originally quoted. The mysterious culprit: “display has 3 or more white spots,” the Apple Store app told him. It’s a defect McGloin doesn’t remember ever seeing, and one that he should have noticed: typically, white spots on an LCD display are evidence of serious damage or burn-in and are clearly visible. In McGloin’s estimation, however, the laptop was in “excellent” condition, he tells The Verge, and he didn’t see any white spots when he packed it up.

I’ve used Apple’s trade in program a few times in the past, and while I haven’t run into these issues, there does seem to be an odd recurrence of this “white spots” problem—all the more puzzling because several cases, customers have declined the trade in, gotten their devices returned, and been unable to discern the problem described.

It doesn’t seem particularly great, but given that we’re mainly hearing about people whose experience didn’t go well—which, of course, tends to be more vocal than those whose experiences went fine—it’s possible that the issue is localized to one particular set of personnel or facility?

Either way, it’s certainly not the experience that Apple probably wants for its customers, especially since many if not most of the people trading in old Apple products are using the money towards the purchase of new Apple products. But because Apple doesn’t highlight the fact that its returns are done through a third-party, it’s Apple that gets the blame—and it’s the one that needs to fix any issue here as well.

By Jason Snell

It’s official: Apple Event on April 20

Spring Loaded

Apple announced (and pre-announced) that it’s holding a virtual event next Tuesday at 10 a.m. “Spring Loaded” is the tagline.

Report: Siri spills on April 20 event

MacRumors reports that the beans have been spilled on the upcoming spring Apple event from an unlikely source:

Upon being asked “When is the next Apple Event,” Siri is currently responding with, “The special event is on Tuesday, April 20, at Apple Park in Cupertino, CA. You can get all the details on” The event will likely be a pre-recorded affair without media in attendance and should be live-streamed on Apple’s website and YouTube channel.

Weird. Usually Siri pretends to not understand my questions. (I assume it’s pretending.)

While this didn’t work on my phone, it did work on my HomePod mini. There’s still a chance this is old data, or the event might be delayed, but we’ll likely know by later today. Describing it as an event happening at Apple Park suggests that there will be a stream, and Apple will likely want people to tune in.

By Jason Snell

We’re cobblers

Ben Smith of the New York Times wrote an excellent piece about the rise of writers building their own businesses, most prominently newsletters based on the Substack platform. This part, about competitors to Substack, struck me for some obvious reasons:

Ghost isn’t the only alternative, of course. Twitter recently bought the newsletter platform Revue, and Facebook is developing ambitious plans for a rival that will provide a platform for local journalists, among other writers. The left-wing commentary site Discourse Blog moved to a rival platform called Lede. Others, like the tech analyst Ben Thompson, cobble together email, blogging and payment services to be what he calls “sovereign writers.”

Like Ben Thompson, we here at Six Colors are cobblers. We have used Memberful, MailChimp, WordPress and Stripe to build a membership program that lets us post free stories as well as members-only content, and then bundle it all up into an end-of-week newsletter.

Would I move to Substack if I were leaving my job at IDG today? Possibly, though it’s more limited in form than what I’ve been able to put together here. But that’s kind of the point of services like Substack—not everyone wants to be a cobbler. In fact, most independent writers who are likely to benefit from moving to a platform like Substack are probably not well versed in all the technical details of going independent and shouldn’t waste their time figuring it out when they should be writing:

Substack and its backers are alert to the risk that the service could be replaced by someone charging a few dollars a month. But they note that many writers simply don’t want to be bothered with anything other than writing, and happily pay the premium for that. (“I don’t have time to sit around trying to figure out platforms,” [Roxane] Gay said.)

Roxane Gay’s got it exactly right. Substack’s “secret sauce” is that it’s easy for independent writers to get up and running with a few clicks. Great if you’re a writer, maybe not great if you’re Substack—because countless other companies are busy replicating the model. (That competition, in turn, will also be good for writers. In the next few years you will find that many of the writers on Substack will abandon it for other platforms that will take a smaller cut of the proceeds. Others will pay experts to build something a bit more custom and to their liking. Or, alternately, Substack will be forced cut the share it takes in order to retain them.)

In any event, the die is cast as far as we’re concerned. I’m pretty happy with what we’re doing here. But then again, we’re cobblers.

This week we ponder Apple’s moves both outdoors (additions to the Find My network) and in (possible new smart home products). Apple’s also launching new original podcasts tied to Apple TV+ projects, and we discuss why some of Apple’s product launches this year may have been delayed.

First, do no Harmony

Late on Friday, as befits disappointing news, Logitech announced that it would be discontinuing its Harmony remote line:

While Harmony remotes are and continue to be available through various retailers, moving forward Logitech will no longer manufacture Harmony remotes.

We expect no impact to our customers by this announcement. We plan to support our Harmony community and new Harmony customers, which includes access to our software and apps to set up and manage your remotes. We also plan to continue to update the platform and add devices to our Harmony database. Customer and warranty support will continue to be offered.

This is real shame. I love my Logitech Harmony remote, and have bought them for my family in the past as well. This isn’t to say that the Harmony was awesome, just that it was better than any other option I’d tried.

But this demise has probably been a long time coming: a lot of people have fewer devices hooked up to their TVs now, many bundled remotes can control multiples devices, and technologies like HDMI-CEC have helped eliminate some needs for universal remotes.

Meanwhile, rumors have it that Apple is redesigning the Apple TV remote. In the past, the company designed its remote to essentially work as though the Apple TV was the only thing of import connected to your TV; thus it could control the volume of the system it was attached to or turn it on and off…but that was about it.

Personally, I’ll be clutching tight to my Harmony remote for a while yet. Earlier this year, when my Logitech Smart Control remote’s left d-pad button stopped working, I went to try and replace it and noticed they were out of stock on Amazon. Instead, I bought a competing device that was…not great. Luckily, my pal Lex Friedman had the exact same remote as me that he wasn’t using, shipped it over, and now I expect I’ll be able to get a few more years out of this.

By Dan Moren for Macworld

Apple is running out of chances to get gaming right

Apple has made several attempts to make a go of the game market over the years—anyone remember when Apple had Game Evangelists? Pippin? Game Sprockets? And each and every time, just like boss battles in classic Nintendo games, those efforts have largely been futile. Gaming has so often seemed like an afterthought for Apple, paid lip service while the company focused on other areas that it clearly felt more passionately about, like music.

With iOS, it seemed as though Apple had finally struck gold, providing a platform for hundreds of games that millions of people obsess over. But while the company’s mobile platform has proved to be profitable for gaming, there’s only so much of that success that can be laid directly at Apple’s own feet. After all, we’re talking about a company that initially eschewed the idea of even allowing third parties to build native apps for its smartphone.

The company’s latest foray into the gaming arena has been Apple Arcade, and while it started out promising, interest has largely died off until just a couple of weeks ago, when Apple made a change that might prove a shot in the arm for the company’s efforts—or could very well prove to be yet another instance of a stopped clock being right twice a day.

Continue reading on Macworld ↦

April 9, 2021

No AirTags, driving to the Apple Store, and why you might not need your own wiki.

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Apple adds support for third parties to Find My network

Apple Newsroom:

Apple today introduced the updated Find My app, allowing third-party products to use the private and secure finding capabilities of Apple’s Find My network, which comprises hundreds of millions of Apple devices. The Find My network accessory program opens up the vast and global Find My network to third-party device manufacturers to build products utilizing the service, so their customers can use the Find My app to locate and keep track of the important items in their lives. New products that work with the Find My app from Belkin, Chipolo, and VanMoof will be available beginning next week.

Interesting move. We’ve long been expecting Apple’s first-party solution—the much rumored AirTags—but part of me wonders if Cupertino has scuppered that idea entirely, in favor of letting third parties build solutions. It always seemed like a somewhat odd and peripheral—literally and figuratively—market for the company to enter.

Find My is a very powerful service, given that it can harness the network of Apple devices around the world, and it potentially saves other companies a lot of time, effort, and money to not have to build out a competitive system that, ultimately, won’t be very competitive.

Several people have noticed that the biggest current competitor, Tile, isn’t yet part of this, and has taken a rather more hostile stance to Apple, having joined Epic’s Coalition for App Fairness. I wonder if that stance will last in the wake of this announcement: seems like Tile might be shooting itself in the foot.

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