Archive for February 14, 2018

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Castro 3’s Business Model


Oisín & Pádraig discuss the different options for Castro 3’s business model and the reasons behind the model they’ve chosen.

This is an interesting discussion about why they are switching to subscriptions despite previously not liking that model. Advertising does not seem like a good fit because they are deliberately targeting a niche user base. What is the proper way to balance unique features with a free trial?

Previously: Overcast Tries Ads.

Update (2018-04-05): Supertop:

In the latest episode of the podcast we give an overview of why we feel good about moving to subscription pricing for Castro and then discuss some of the issues we’ve experienced preparing for the transition.

Good vs. Better at Bad

Joe Cieplinski:

Without knowing where “good” is, anyone can wave either one of these comparisons away and chalk it up to priorities. Some people care more about the sound quality. Some people care more about the smart stuff. Sounds like a toss-up, right?

But there’s a threshold of quality where people consider something “good.” Where the general public—not just a niche of enthusiasts—agrees that a technology has gotten significantly good enough to make it ready for prime time.

We reached the “good” threshold for speakers decades ago. The subcategory of affordable bookshelf speakers got there sometime in the past few years.

But we’re nowhere near “good” yet when it comes to digital assistants.

I like the way his final chart visualizes this.

So yes, other platforms may currently be “better” than Siri. But when none of the platforms is good, what difference does that make, except to a small niche of enthusiasts? By all means, enjoy the Echo if you want to live on the bleeding edge of voice assistants. But don’t try to convince me Apple is doomed in this space[…]

The “doomed” narrative has taken hold because it seemed like Siri started out ahead but has fallen behind and is now facing a network effect. What reason do we have to think that it can or will catch up? Still, it’s far too early to know who will win the race, or whether that’s even the right question to ask. Perhaps at some point they’ll all be good enough that people choose based on other factors. Some would argue that’s what happened with maps, where Google remains ahead, and may even be increasing its lead, but yet Apple Maps is improving in an absolute sense and many people use it successfully.

Update (2018-02-15): Nick Heer:

But I maintain that, even if Amazon and Google aren’t that much closer to a fully assistive software or hardware product, the ways in which Siri frequently fails are unacceptable.

Update (2018-02-23): See also: Matt Birchler.

HomePod Can Leave White Rings on Wood Surfaces

Joe Rossignol (9to5Mac):

Apple has issued a statement confirming that the HomePod can possibly leave white rings on wood surfaces with an oil or wax finish.

The strange discovery was brought to light in HomePod reviews published by Wirecutter and Pocket-lint, as highlighted by VentureBeat, while at least one customer shared a picture of the same problem on Twitter.

Jeff Johnson:

This is why they didn’t notice the white rings on the table.

Not Jony Ive:

Fixed the HomePod “white ring” situation.

Update (2018-02-14): James Thomson:

The HomePod Wood Adaptor was included in every box. It’s the sticker.

Tiffany Arment:

Why don’t we just give everybody a coaster? Okay. Great. Let’s give everybody a coaster.

Riccardo Mori:

In reference to the latest HomePod issue, it’s time for another Tim & Steve strip: “If you see a ring, they blew it.”

Mike Burvill:

I’m really curious to find out if this has affected the famous wooden tables found in Apple Stores...

Myke Hurley:

If a device has a rubber base it suggests ‘protection’ between the surface and the product.

I feel there is no general assumption that you should also put something between a rubber base and a surface.


It is not unusual for any speaker with a vibration-damping silicone base to leave mild marks when placed on some wooden surfaces. The marks can be caused by oils diffusing between the silicone base and the table surface, and will often go away after several days when the speaker is removed from the wooden surface. If not, wiping the surface gently with a soft damp or dry cloth may remove the marks. If marks persist, clean the surface with the furniture manufacturer’s recommended cleaning process. If you’re concerned about this, we recommend placing your HomePod on a different surface.

The article says “Published Date: Feb 15, 2018,” but it was posted today.

Shawn King:

“HomePod may leave white ring on wood surfaces. Apple recommends using elsewhere.” So…is this the latest Apple version of, “You’re holding it wrong”? Jesus Apple.

Federico Viticci:

Like many recent Apple PR debacles, this HomePod ring problem could have been easily avoided by simply…telling people beforehand.

Explain how things work. Even the obvious ones. Be proactive. Don’t wait until people discover issues to spin the narrative back in your control.

John Gruber:

Anyone who runs into this should be outraged. I honestly don’t see how this could happen. Apple has been making products that go on shelves and tables for years — AirPort base stations, Apple TV, various docks — and I’ve never seen a report of damage to a surface. I guess the difference with HomePod is that the base factors into the acoustics, but still, this seems like an issue that should have been caught during the period where HomePod was being widely tested at home by many Apple employees.

Jon Chase:

This really undermines the design aspect of the HomePod—especially if you were thinking of displaying it on some prized piece of furniture—and it will surely be a sore point for many potential buyers. In other testing, we have seen no visible damage when using it on glass, granite countertop, nice MDF, polyurethane-sealed wood, and cheap IKEA bookcases. We also tested the HomePod in the same place a Sonos One regularly lives—and the Sonos hasn’t caused damage in months of use.

Update (2018-02-15): Ryan Jones:

MacBook Pro’s have battery life issue: Apple just removes battery time remaining

iPhone’s can’t retain battery health: Apple throttles CPU silently

HomePod marks wood tables: Apple says use a coaster

This dismissiveness is getting old.

Josh Centers:

How could Apple have anticipated that people who buy $350 speakers would set them on wooden furniture? This is a difficult problem at scale.

Mike Prospero, contra The Wirecutter:

A closer inspection revealed that the Sonos One speaker, which also has small silicone feet, had made these marks on my cabinet. Looking around the top of the cabinet, I noticed a bunch of little white marks, all left from the Sonos Ones as I moved them around. So, they will damage your wood furniture, too.

Update (2018-02-17): See also: Accidental Tech Podcast.

Update (2018-02-19): Josh Centers:

In essence, the rings are caused by a chemical reaction between the silicone and wood oil, and so should affect only wooden furniture with oiled finishes (as opposed to polyurethane, varnish, shellac, paint, or other nonporous finishes). The rings may disappear on their own, but if not, you may be able to reduce or eliminate them with a bit of wiping. If that doesn’t work, This Old House has some advice for fixing furniture finishes, but in my experience, a little Murphy’s Oil Soap on an oil finish can do wonders. Oil finishes are easy to touch up, since you just need to fill the pores of the wood. I’ve heard some people suggest mayonnaise as a fix for this issue, but that’s a bad idea, since it will eventually break down and probably smell terrible.

Update (2018-02-21): See also: The Talk Show.