Archive for November 1, 2017

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

iPhone X Media Strategy and Early Reviews

Tripp Mickle (via Hacker News):

Apple Inc. departed from its traditional preview strategy for what it bills as its most important new iPhone in years, prioritizing early access to the iPhone X for YouTube personalities and celebrities over most technology columnists who traditionally review its new products.

Dan Frommer:

It invited a handful of YouTubers you probably haven’t heard of to its fancy penthouse in New York, gave them some early hands-on time with the iPhone X, and let them publish their videos a day or more in advance of the official reviews. (It also let Wired/Backchannel’s Steven Levy write a “first first impression of the iPhone X” post because Steven Levy. It also gave one to Axios co-founder Mike Allen, who had his nephew play with it. And Mindy Kaling for Glamour. And The Ellen Show.)

John Gruber:

I totally get including a bunch of YouTubers, and seeding review units to celebrities. YouTube is how young people get their news and reviews, and Apple definitely wants to reach young people. But I don’t get restricting real reviews to just three publications in the U.S. Leave me out of it, personally, just for the sake of argument here.

Benjamin Mayo:

I think the Monday YouTube iPhone X videos were a shambles. Not because they were YouTubers, but because Apple didn’t give them sufficient access to create interesting and engaging videos.

Every Apple-sanctioned hands-on posted on Monday was the exact same, incredibly generic, rough overview of Animoji, Face ID and the bigger screen. Each video was shot in the same New York City location and felt incredibly scripted by the invisible hand of Apple PR, with restrictive guidelines on what they could talk about and limited time to handle (and shoot) the product.

Matt Alexander:

The upset, although I’ve not seen it written explicitly, seems to be that the traditional crowd feel better equipped to provide a critical analysis of Apple’s new flagship, product-line altering product.

And, although that’s true, it’s worth bearing in mind that Apple’s goal isn’t for you to produce a multi-thousand word treatise about the Face ID mechanism for your audience of people who are statistically most likely to have already pre-ordered the product.


Simply put, they’d create a crashing wave, of sorts, of press around the product, which would enable them to control and manipulate consumer perception of the news, regardless of how more technical reviewers may feel.

Lesson learned from the Apple Watch Series 3 launch, the tech press created a huge amount of uproar about the device being unable to maintain an LTE connection.

Apple (9to5Mac, MacRumors):

After testing iPhone X, reviewers from around the world are giving their impressions of its beautiful 5.8-inch Super Retina display, TrueDepth camera, Face ID and Animoji. Read what they’re saying about the future of the smartphone.

Zac Cichy:

I guess “let the product speak for itself” is dead. 🤷🏻

More early review roundups: John Gruber, 9to5Mac, MacRumors, MacStories.

Update (2017-11-07): John Gruber:

In short, Apple wants control over the narrative for its products, and in-depth reviews are mostly out of their control.

They can’t have it both ways though. Apple yesterday posted “iPhone X: What Reviewers Are Saying” to their Newsroom blog, but most of the quotes were from “reviews” which were written by people who’d only spent a few hours with the phone.

Christina Bonnington (via John Gruber):

What all this means: Apple needs to focus its marketing efforts on millennials, teens, and wallet-controlling female buyers if it wants to expand its reach in the U.S., where Android controls 65 percent of the market.

It would make sense then that a few years back when I left WIRED, with its older, male-dominated audience, to head up tech coverage at Refinery29, which targets millennial women, I not only received an Apple review unit that year—I got one of the coveted early review units. (Other women-focused publications, such as Vogue and Teen Vogue, have also been getting early iPhone review units.) This year’s iPhone X reviews continue that push. Mindy Kaling is a millennial female icon who’s smart, savvy, and digitally connected. Giving her an iPhone to review, from a marketing standpoint, is positively genius. And The Ellen DeGeneres Show, one of the highest-rated daytime talk shows, has a strong audience of female viewers aged 25 to 54. Giving the phone early facetime ahead of its Friday launch was also a shrewd move.

Update (2017-11-13): See also: The Talk Show.

Google Docs Glitch Blocks Files for TOS Violations

Louise Matsakis (via Hacker News):

Google Docs, the collaborative, cloud-based word processing software, appears to be randomly flagging files for supposedly “violating” Google’s Terms of Service. A member of Motherboard’s team, as well as numerous users on Twitter, report that their documents are being locked for no apparent reason. Once a document is flagged, the owner of that document can no longer share it with other users. Users who have already been shared on a document that’s been flagged are kicked out and can no longer access it.


No matter what's causing the Google Docs bug, the issue is a pertinent reminder that you don't really have control over the content you put on the internet. The documents you create and save on Google Drive are ultimately controlled by Google—even if they can feel like they belong to us.

Maya Salamo:

“This shows that Google is using advanced machine learning and other A.I. technologies to examine vast amounts of information in near real time,” Dana Gardner, a leading cloud expert and a principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, said on Tuesday.


A Google spokesman said in a statement that a “code push” caused a small percentage of Google Docs to be incorrectly flagged as abusive, which caused them to be automatically blocked.

“A fix is in place and all users should have full access to their docs,” the statement said. “Protecting users from viruses, malware and other abusive content is central to user safety. We apologize for the disruption and will put processes in place to prevent this from happening again.”

Mr. Gardner said the complexity of the technology and its widespread use carried considerable risks. “A small tweak to the rules on what to flag or not can produce false positives like we saw today,” he said.

iOS Feature Wish: Contact Provider Extensions

Dave DeLong:

I really wish iOS offered a way for these apps (Facebook, Next Door, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) to “donate” their contact information to the system database in a non-permanent way. (By “non-permanent” I mean “don’t just dump it in to my iCloud contacts and call it good”; deleting the app would cause that info to disappear, and the app could update it on-demand) There would need to be some pretty intelligent merging that happens, but generally it’s pretty safe to assume that an individual with a certain phone number and email address is probably the same individual as another with the same phone number and email address. You’d also have to consider how to handle apps that provide unboundedly-large data sets (like the corporate directory for a 50,000+ employee company). But, these are solvable problems.

Photos Machine Learning and Trusting Apple

Nick Heer:

This realization went viral; Christine Teigen posted about it, too. And, arguably, rightfully so — if you found out that your phone was, somehow, making it easier for you to search semi-nude photos, you might find that creepy, and you’d probably want to warn a lot of people about that.


There’s something else, too, that’s bothering me about this: I wonder if most people — and, let’s face it, “people” is too broad a term; “women” is much more accurate — want to search for photos of bras in their image library. That is, even if this capability and the privacy protections in place had been effectively communicated, is this something that users want catalogued?

I don’t know how many women are on Apple’s machine learning teams specifically, but just 23% of their technical employees are women. Judging by Twitter users’ incredulity, it seems like something women may not actually want, and I wonder if a higher percentage of women in technical roles might have caused object recognition to be filtered more carefully.

One issue is that most people probably don’t understand that Apple is not looking at their photos (though clearly it could). Apple does try to communicate things like this, and I’m sure it would like to do so better, but it’s not clear how.

The other issue is that I’m sure there are many groups of people who don’t want certain things cataloged, and for many of those cases there are other groups who would benefit from that type of searching. Is it possible to make everyone happy? I can’t imagine Apple adding detailed preferences for something like this. My guess is that it tries to pick an intersection of restrictions that’s suitable for the mass-market, and if you have more specialized needs you’ll have to find another photos ecosystem.