Archive for September 7, 2016

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

iPhone 7

Overall, it is impressive and better than I was expecting. The processor is much faster, battery life is better, the camera has an image stabilizer (but still the bump), it’s water resistant like the original Apple Watch, the display supports wide color, and the speakers are better. I plan to keep my iPhone 6s, though.

I was a bit surprised that it does not support the Apple Pencil or True Tone, and also that the old iPhones got bumped up to 32 GB.

As expected, the case is the same uncomfortable shape—the worst of all the iPhone designs.

I’m not sure what to make of the new home button—early reports are mixed.

The AirPods look great, especially the battery life and ease of charging. Of course, this assumes that the wireless pairing works as well as Apple promises. Bluetooth audio has always been unreliable. I’m not sure I want to give up my Jawbone ERA, which is very easy to hear in noisy environments. It sounds like the AirPods only filter out the noise for the microphone, not the speaker. And I’m not sure the AirPods will have a snug enough fit for jogging. I was also hoping for better controls, i.e. the ability to play/pause/next without using Siri, a regression compared with wired earbuds.

Of course, there is no headphone jack. The way Apple justified this was pretty disappointing—no real reason was given. Even if the AirPods are great, that is a separate issue, not a benefit. The “courage” line was rather strange. They have the courage to make a proprietary wireless product, but they’re including wired EarPods and an adapter in the box? Or was it the courage to make everyone who likes their headphones carry a bulky adapter? At least extra adapters are only $9. There was also no reassurance about different use cases. For example, I have yet to see an adapter that would let me attach the iPhone to my car’s audio and charge it while it’s in a GPS mount.

Update (2016-09-08): Michael Nelson (via Parker Higgins):

That’s great, right? They “started allowing” it. You know who wasn’t so in love that idea? Headphone makers. As MacWorld wrote back in 2014, the rest of the audio industry largely resisted Apple’s invitation to revamp entire product lines to service a single piece of hardware that was bound to be updated again in a few years anyway.

Nick Lockwood:

Having standard ports lets hardware manufacturers bypass MFI.

The MFi licensing fee is $2/port.

John Paczkowski:

But the thing is, when Apple scrapped the iMac’s floppy drive, the floppy disc was ferociously inadequate as a storage solution and in obvious need of replacement.

The 3.5-millimeter audio jack, however, is neither inadequate nor in obvious need of replacement.


At the top of both devices is something called the “driver ledge” — a small printed circuit board that drives the iPhone’s display and its backlight. Historically, Apple placed it there to accommodate improvements in battery capacity, where it was out of the way. But according to Riccio, the driver ledge interfered with the iPhone 7 line’s new larger camera systems, so Apple moved the ledge lower in both devices. But there, it interfered with other components, particularly the audio jack.

So the company’s engineers tried removing the jack.

Andrew Pontious:

“It’s a dinosaur. It’s time to move on.”

Throwing away perfectly good tech because of “progress” will be the death of us.

David Smith:

I really don’t understand the way they’re marketing this >.< why not lead with “it made room for the camera + 2hrs of battery”?

My guess is because it didn’t really make room for all that. Besides, this is all premised on the idea that the phone’s size can’t change. If the decision really was about size rather than “courage,” surely Apple could have found way to fit the headphone jack into the iPhone 7 Plus.

Phil Schiller:

Remember, we’ve been through this many times before. We got rid of parallel ports, the serial bus, floppy drives, physical keyboards on phones — do you miss the physical keyboards on your phone?

As far as I know, Apple never shipped a device with a built-in parallel port.


This is much worse than I imagined – I was expecting some sort of shoe to drop to make this palatable, like wireless charging of the phone too. I will admit that a fair amount of conventions were uprooted and smart things were done to help the wireless story towards what it needs to be. But here’s the problem: if things that you start to play from your other connected devices really do start to play on the AirPods too, that’s the wireless headphones nightmare, to not have any control over those things.

Andrew Cunningham:

Apple’s Taptic Engine does provide feedback when you touch the button, but it’s now much more like the haptic feedback you’d get from a capacitive or software button on an Android phone. […] The iPhone 7’s Taptic Engine is less precise, so the entire phone vibrates slightly as you press down on the Home button. You can adjust the force of that feedback in the settings (and an Apple representative said it would be added to iOS’ increasingly lengthy first-time setup process, too), but it still feels like pushing a solid thing that makes the phone vibrate instead of pressing a button. It will also take some time to get used to the amount of force needed to register as a “click,” something that was far more obvious with the old clicky button.


A quick note on the W1: it’s used to make pairing and battery status checking and the Siri features work quickly and seamlessly, but the actual audio is still being streamed over good-old Bluetooth, and the AirPods can be paired the standard way with anything that will do Bluetooth audio.

Juli Clover:

Belkin today announced the Lightning Audio + Charge RockStar for the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus, an accessory that will allow iPhone 7 users to charge their iPhones and listen to music at the same time.

It has two Lightning ports, but no headphone jack, so you would also need to use Apple’s dongle to plug into regular headphones or a car’s Aux input.

Update (2016-09-20): Chuq Von Rospach:

So Apple came into the event with weak expectations because of the leaks causing a focus on superficial and cosmetic details — but lets be honest, the iPhone depends on a style/design attraction as well, so these issues are important (but it’s not the lead feature each time, which gets forgotten) — and there were some sour notes in the event itself, especially the “Courage Dance” that sidetracked us fro the meat of the event. And that’s too bad, because the good stuff was really good, but it’s muted in the conversation because of the other distractions.

Jean-Louis Gassée:

One could say that the pundits did for Apple what the company should have done on its own: Underpromise as an easy path to overdelivery.

The Register:

The truth though is that large tech companies, especially in Silicon Valley, often use access to their events and their executives as a way to force positive coverage of themselves. If you write one bad thing about them, they threaten to stop talking to you. If you ignore the warnings, they blacklist you.

Riccardo Mori:

It’s not that I don’t think wireless is the future for audio. Nor I think Apple should continue to keep the headphone jack indefinitely. My argument against the jack removal is that the alternative solution Apple has presented doesn’t feel elegant, effective or compelling enough. Since everyone is quick to bring up past examples, I’ll say that again: every time Apple purposely dropped a technology from its hardware, the chosen alternative was better in every way, more elegant, more practical, more efficient — just compare the huge advantages of FireWire over SCSI, to make one example. What Apple has proposed as an alternative to wired audio on the iPhone doesn’t feel this better, but more like a stopgap.

Riccardo Mori:

I’d really like to read a list of those “too many reasons aligned against it sticking around any longer”, but the fact is that this transition Schiller talks about isn’t yet necessary. Instead of solving an existing problem, Apple has created a problem to then solve it their way and feed us the narrative of the courageous pioneer. All the examples of past transitions Schiller makes are valid because all those were technologies that were made obsolete by the appearance of newer, more advanced, better solutions.

Kirk McElhearn:

We’ve been talking about this for more than a year, and I had pretty much resigned myself to accepting the company’s boneheaded decision, and living with yet another dongle (though I hadn’t planned to buy an iPhone 7, and I still don’t plan to do so).

But when Phil Schiller said “Courage,” that flipped my bits.

John Gruber:

Removing the headphone jack but including both Lightning ear buds and a legacy adapter is a nudge. But the nudge will help drive adoption of wireless headphones. In the alternate universe where Apple introduced the exact same AirPods and W1-powered Beats headphones but kept the analog audio port on the iPhone 7, adoption of those wireless headphones would be slower. I think a lot slower. More people would have a worse experience on a daily basis, dealing with tangled cords and all the other hassles of having your ears tethered to a device.


Choosing to do what you know will be unpopular in the short run but you believe will prove correct in the long run takes courage. Courage of one’s convictions, not courage running into a burning building to save a life, but courage nonetheless.

Henry T. Casey (via Kirk McElhearn):

Both accessory-maker Belkin and Apple offer a solution to this problem, but neither provides users with a good experience.

Rob Griffiths:

Traditionally, third-party battery pack cases plug into the Lightning port, and typically provide a micro USB connector in its place. They also then usually have a headphone passthrough, either via a port extender or a special headphone cable extender, to allow you to plug in headphones without removing the battery pack.

I was curious how the case makers were going to address this for the iPhone 7, because blocking the Lightning port means that users will have to use wireless headphones when using a battery pack.

Josh Centers:

How big of a deal is the lack of a headphone jack? It wasn’t popular, with a post-announcement survey of 1140 American consumers by Toluna Quicksurveys revealing that Apple’s move ranks among the least favorite changes in the iPhone 7. However, Toluna Quicksurveys added a couple of exclusive questions at our request. Of the respondents, 74 percent said that the lack of a headphone jack wouldn’t affect their purchase decision, and 56 percent of respondents went further, saying that it wouldn’t even require them to change their habits, presumably because they already rely on wireless audio or the iPhone’s built-in speakers.


Apple has played this game before. Apple are the experts of coming out of things with the same attitude as it went into it with. The actual casualties will be ignored. The point is that Apple will never do anything that will allow the theories they put forward to be tested.


Why don’t they offer this? Because it wants to be a company to which it is more important to be right than to serve the actual needs of their customers. It wants to put a dent in the universe in terms of causing upheaval and in terms of implementing an idealistically pure world view, not in terms of being solicitous towards the everyday problems of people. Letting people pick thicker mocks their effort and drive to make things thinner, even if that drive is exactly what would let them offer iPhone P, too.

John Gruber:

If you have to have a bump, own the bump, I say. And the new iPhones own their bumps. Some of Apple’s product photography highlights the bump — the complete opposite of the iPhone 6 shots two years ago that hid the bump. And the antenna lines have been cleaned up significantly.


One surprise for me is that the new iPhones lack the True Tone color-balancing feature in the 9.7-inch iPad Pro. At the March event introducing that iPad, Phil Schiller said of True Tone, “Once you get used to it, you can’t go back.” I took that as a hint that the new iPhones would get it too. Clearly, I was wrong. My guess as to why: space. True Tone requires extra sensors. iPads have room for those sensors; the iPhone doesn’t (yet). Too bad.

John Gruber:

My gut feeling from my time in the hands-on area is that in the real world, the black iPhone 7 looks better, and the jet black iPhone 7 feels better. I say “in the real world” because in the perfect vacuum of a retail display or photo studio, the jet black iPhone looks like the most stunning device I’ve ever seen. There’s no way it’s going to look like that in the real world. But I think it’s going to feel great in your hand even when it’s smudged with fingerprints.

Dan Graziano:

The company traditionally issues a statement about the record number of people who purchase the devices during the first weekend of sales, but this will no longer be the case.

Update (2016-09-28): Peter Kirn (via Michael Yacavone):

First, it appears the analog output in Apple’s headphone adapter (that is, via the Lightning port) isn’t strong enough to drive analog headphones reliably. There’s an excellent and detailed study of this by Germany’s CT magazine.


Second, Apple’s efforts to improve Bluetooth pairing appear to be locked to their own headphones. That would be fine, if Apple were any good at making headphones – except, sorry, they really aren’t.

Evolving App Store Business Models

David Smith (Hacker News):

I don’t have solid data going all the way back to 2008 when I launched my first app, but I do from 2012. In the last 4.5 years the split of where my revenue comes from has followed a clear, inexorable march from being paid-based to advertising-based. Starting in 2012 advertising in my apps made up around 10% of sales whereas now it is nearly 80%. That increase has come almost entirely from a near collapse of my paid upfront sales (with my in-app purchase income largely unchanged).


The sizable jump in advertising revenue this year was caused by switching away from iAd to AdMob when Apple announced they were discontinuing that advertising platform. The dip in revenue from January to May of this year was caused by staying on iAd even when their rates started to slide, likely an early indication of the end of the service.

I wonder how much revenue Apple is losing by discontinuing iAd.

Russell Ivanovic:

In 2008 we made all our money from paid apps. In 2016 we still do and our revenue is higher than ever. There is no one rule for everyone.

I know plenty of devs who are struggling in every business model. Paid, IAP, Ads. Being indie is not easy. There is no silver bullet model.

Previously: Apple Eliminating Its App and Radio Ads.

App Store Subscriptions Clarification

Apple Store Review Guidelines History (Apple, Hacker News):

If you offer an auto-renewing subscription, you must provide ongoing value to the customer. While the following list is not exhaustive, examples of appropriate subscriptions include: new game levels; episodic content; multi-player support; apps that offer consistent, substantive updates; access to large collections of, or continually updated, media content; software as a service (“SAAS”); and cloud support.

The “consistent, substantive updates” part is the most interesting, but I don’t understand how that works in practice. When you are submitting a new app, it doesn’t have a track record of updates, and it’s hard to even predict what the development path will be like.

Curtis Herbert:

Unfortunately subscriptions require a lot more work on our part than paid up front. StoreKit and receipt validation can be new territory, even for a lot of senior developers as many just haven’t had to touch a lot of this before.


One annoyance, here, is that this only seems to happen on app launch. If the user is inside your app when the renewal actually goes through, you won’t get the callback until next time.


There is no insight into when they turn off auto-renew. I can’t adjust my wording in-app to acknowledge that they disabled auto-renew.


Subscriptions were born from newstand, and it still shows. One of the final steps of the purchase phase is to prompt the user to share email, name, and zip code. It is billed as “the publisher wants this information”, but I don’t! A friend on Twitter pointed me to this dev forum post which explains that there is no automated way to opt out of asking this, but if you email App Review they’ll manually flag your app to remove the prompt.

Previously: Pre-WWDC App Store Changes.