Archive for February 29, 2024

Thursday, February 29, 2024

FineWoven iPhone Cases and Watch Bands

Stephen Robles:

Hands-on with Apple’s new FineWoven iPhone 15 Pro Max case in Taupe and Cypress Green Silicone Case! Apple’s announced at the Wonderlust event that it will no longer make any leather products, with FineWoven replacing the higher end material.

John Gruber:

I spent time in the hands-on area playing with both the new phone cases and watch straps, and I like the FineWoven material. The keynote emphasized only the ethical angles, vis-à-vis leather: carbon impact and animal rights. But for the iPhone cases at least, I think FineWoven is just plain nicer than the old leather ones. I personally like nice leather goods, but I always felt like the leather Apple used to produce iPhone cases was, at best, OK. In particular I don’t think it weathered well, and I have never been a heavy user of iPhone cases, generally carrying mine un-cased. Put all the ethical issues aside and pretend that Apple were still selling leather iPhone cases alongside these new FineWoven ones, and I’d rather buy a FineWoven one. I’m not entirely sold on the FineWoven Apple Watch straps based on my hands-on experience, but at worst, they seem pretty nice.


Pre-orders for the new cases have already begun arriving, and reactions to the new material are mixed. I’m curious how it’s going to weather over time, especially the watch straps, but my first impression is that this is a quality upgrade over Apple’s leather products, not just an ethical one. I don’t think the FineWoven material is nicer than fine leather, but I do think it’s nicer than the leather iPhone cases Apple made, and perhaps on par with their own previous leather watch straps. And one thing that it’s not is faux leather. As Jony Ive might describe it if he were still at Apple, it’s unapologetically fabric.

Allison Johnson:

Folks, what you’ve heard so far is true. Apple’s new FineWoven iPhone cases and accessories are bad. Like, really bad. I’ve been puzzling over them for the past week, looking at them from different angles. Picking them up, setting them down, petting them. Seven days later, I still can’t make sense of them and have no other choice but to say it out loud: FineWoven is very bad.


FineWoven is very much not the premium material that leather is. When I popped the MagSafe wallet out of its box, I could clearly see some places where it was already showing wear along the edges. Little bits of lint immediately caught on the fabric, too. And then there’s the fingernail test.

John Gruber:

One fingernail scratched across one of Apple’s leather cases or wallets will leave a permanent mark too. Perhaps it’s the case that such wear looks good on leather but bad on FineWoven.

Judging from my inbox, third-party leather case makers are very excited about Apple’s decision no longer to use it.

Eric Schwarz:

I think Apple needs to be called out for these, not because some folks preferred leather, but because these cases aren’t going to hold up. I ordered one alongside a new iPhone and the case arrived Monday. While I kind of liked the feel of it, just removing it from the box led to a permanent scratch on the inside from the cardboard. I initiated the return process almost immediately, giving that the record of the shortest time I had an Apple product in my possession.

Matt Birchler:

To each their own, but I find this change to be quite un-Apple-like. Usually when Apple makes a change for moral or legal reasons, they come out with something better than before and make it look like an upgrade that just made sense.

Tim Hardwick:

The quality of the iPhone cases in particular seems to have riled some customers, with several MacRumors forum members stating they have returned the cases. “After holding it in person”, said poster inducecurrent, “it feels more like a $10 cheapo case from Amazon rather than Apple-quality, especially at this price point.”

“Received and returned,” said another forum member. “Felt cheap almost like cardboard.” EvanEiga replied: “The case itself is nice IMO, but I’m not sure if the premium cost is worth it. Leather cases felt so much nicer. I am all for mother nature but when it comes to bang for the buck, FineWoven case is just subpar.” Most respondents to a MacRumors forum poll thus far seemed to agree.

Positive customer reactions are just as hard to find on Twitter (X). “I’ve been using Apple’s cases for my phones since the iPhone 7,” said X user @eggbutspam, “but I’ve never returned a case so fast like I did with the FineWoven case I preordered last Friday. FineWoven looks like absolute trash.”

Juli Clover:

Given the criticism of the FineWoven case, teardown site iFixit obtained one of the accessories and decided to take it apart to get a closer look.

Using a digital microscope, iFixit viewed the FineWoven fabric at 52x and 490x magnification, confirming that it is indeed made up of bundles of tightly woven fibers. Each fiber is much smaller than a strand of hair, measuring in at about six microns thick.

Groups of the individual fibers make up threads that are around 150 microns thick, and iFixit says the microtwill material that Apple is using is not too far off from high-end jackets from companies like Patagonia and Arc’teryx.

When the FineWoven fabric is scratched, the fibers don’t break, but the scratch does cause the affected fibers to reflect light irregularly, which means there’s a visual mark. The softness of the material also means that items in the pocket with the case can leave an indentation.

Joe Rossignol:

In a 512 Pixels blog post on Sunday, Relay FM co-founder Stephen Hackett shared a photo of his FineWoven case with a misaligned USB-C port cutout, resulting in the pentalobe screw on the right side of the USB-C port being partially exposed.


In addition, Parker Ortolani and MacRumors editor Hartley Charlton shared photos of FineWoven cases with visible damage on display at Apple Stores. An anonymous, alleged Apple Store employee mentioned likewise in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

Chance Miller:

Apple’s new FineWoven cases for iPhone 15 are a huge swing and miss. They suck. Apple should remove them from sale and refund everyone who’s already bought one. You could pretty much stop reading the story at this point, but I’ll offer a few pieces of supporting evidence for my claims.

Basic Apple Guy:

The $59 price tag (equal to Apple’s leather cases) was also scorned. Leather is a known quantity, and Apple’s leather cases were generally well regarded for their quality. FineWoven isn’t striking people for being as premium as leather, yet Apple is pricing it as a premium case. It feels something akin to high-grade paper or soft denim. Some people disliked the edges’ feel, which looks plastic but is a modified compressed FineWoven texture.

Basic Apple Guy:

I don’t care for it as much as I did Apple’s leather cases, but I also don’t think it deserved the full force of the vitriol it received. Here’s my argument for why the FineWoven case is fine.


But here we are, a month since Apple’s FineWoven cases first debuted, and honestly, it has been weeks since I have heard about these cases. A Google Trends graph supports this, with FineWoven searches now being down to a tenth of their peak volume in mid-September. We’ve moved on, some to other cases, others to different topics, but some of us learned that FineWoven wasn’t as bad as the outrage made it seem.


I have been fine with this case’s durability and cosmetic quality. As okay as I am with the FineWoven case, I still prefer a leather option from an aesthetic, tactile, and perceived value standpoint.

John Gruber:

I actually like Apple’s FineWoven cases. I spent a week vacationing in Florida with my iPhone 15 Pro in one. (I go caseless most of the time, but like using a case while traveling, when I’m more likely to be taking a lot of pictures with my phone. An encased iPhone feels more like a camera to me, with better grippiness.) The dealbreaker for me is not the FineWoven material, which I actually kind of like. Rather, it’s the bottom lip. If Apple’s FineWoven cases had a cutout along the bottom, that would probably be the only case I’d use.

M.G. Siegler:

Look, the world doesn’t need yet another post piling on to the new iPhone 15 leather-replacement cases. But here I am anyway. I just can’t help myself. My initial gut reaction upon receiving the case a couple weeks ago still stands. The “FineWoven” cases are bad. Well, that’s not fair. They’re not bad bad, but they are bad relative to expectations for Apple products. And they’re worse than both the leather cases that preceded them and the silicone variety which not only still exist, but are cheaper. What was Apple thinking here?

Rui Carmo:

As someone who has used leather covers for two iPhones now (both of which are still perfectly usable and actually look better slightly worn out), the prospect of paying for a premium case that stains this easily isn’t appealing at all. I wonder why they didn’t explore actual leather substitutes instead of overcharging for this porous polyester crap.

Zac Hall:

The one exception to the third-party-retailers-don’t-want-to-deal-with-FineWoven rule is the AirTag key ring. Perhaps that’s the finest FineWoven product of them all. The one nice thing about third-party retailers at least selling FineWoven accessories online? The reviews. See those for an idea of why brick-and-mortar stores are steering clear of the replacement for leather cases.


So yea this is normal use after two months and this is how it looks?

Aaron Pearce:

My FineWoven case is seemingly staining my Belkin MagSafe charger… awesome.

Aaron Pearce:

Have to wonder with how the response is to Finewoven… did it really benefit the environment? Seemingly a lot of people are just going to buy one, be disappointed then get a second case, probably leather anyway.

I’m now looking to get a Leather case myself. Finewoven is too slippery in my hands. I can see myself dropping my phone even more than I do now.

Joanna Stern:

There it is, everyone. My iPhone 15 Pro Max’s FineWoven case after five months of use. The edges are peeling, the fabric is scratched up like an old CD and it’s browning like a rotten banana. I’ve been waiting for the CDC to show up at my house to declare it a biomedical concern.


The company does provide advice for cleaning the FineWoven material with laundry detergent and water. It did help but the thing is still scratched and peeling.

John Gruber (Mastodon):

But it really does seem, five months in, that FineWoven is a failure, durability-wise, compared to Apple’s previous leather cases. And I am repulsed by Apple’s FineWoven Apple Watch straps — I wish I’d bought a spare leather Magnetic Link strap while they sold them.

Ben Lovejoy:

The combined results of three social media polls show that 53% describe the case as “a piece of junk,” while only 21% considered it has held up well …

Tim Hardwick:

Despite the continued bad publicity almost six months on from the cases’ debut, Apple still appears unwilling to admit that its leather alternative material is a letdown. But in the court of public opinion, all the evidence suggests this is an open and shut case: FineWoven is just bad.

Fortunately, the iPhone 15 Pro works great caseless.


Update (2024-03-01): Christina Warren:

But what gets me legit angry is that this solipsistic decision to eschew leather for a less-durable material means that it’s almost impossible to buy a legit Apple-made leather watch band that isn’t a counterfeit. Because if the phone cases look this bad, the $150 watch bands are going to be worse


Recycled plastic, but plastic that won’t ever biodegrade nonetheless. That’s why I call it solipsistic.

Chance Miller:

It turns out they are so bad that Amazon had to add a warning label to FineWoven accessories to caution buyers that they are “frequently returned.”

Why Quora Isn’t Useful Anymore

Nitish Pahwa (via Hacker News):

Today’s Quora, however, hardly meshes with those utopian aims. The once-beloved forum is now home to a never-ending avalanche of meaningless, repetitive sludge, filled with bizarre, nonsensical, straight-up hateful, and A.I.–generated entries along with a slurry of all-caps non-questions like “OMG! KING CHARLES SHOCK the WORLD with ROYAL BAN ON PRINCE HARRY AND MEGHAN MARKLE. SAD?”


First, an anonymous former Quoran told me, the site started “shortening the length of questions.” The professed reason was to increase Quora’s visibility on Google, but that brevity came with a cost: It also made it difficult for users to ask the types of complex questions that could be addressed by specialists, including extremely specific business-related queries of the type Hanks would answer.


When Quora started putting ads on the site in 2016, Williams and other Top Writers suggested that there be some sort of creator revenue-sharing program, she told me. As a result, higher-ups created “the Quora partner program, which I joined myself,” Williams said. But that “was all about trying to come up with questions that would draw in more views and more people,” she said—not about incentivizing high-quality answers. It was all about adding webpages of individual questions, for SEO purposes.


To top it all off, after Quora began using A.I. to “generate machine answers on a number of selected question pages,” the site made clear the possibility that human-crafted answers could be used for training A.I.

Tyler Glaiel:

this is actually hilarious. Quora SEO’d themselves to the top of every search result, and is now serving chatGPT answers on their page, so that’s propagating to the answers google gives


its not fixed if you search “can you melt eggs” instead of “can you melt an egg”


Tumblr and WordPress to Sell Users’ Data to Train AI Tools

Samantha Cole (tweet, Slashdot):

Tumblr and are preparing to sell user data to Midjourney and OpenAI, according to a source with internal knowledge about the deals and internal documentation referring to the deals.


The internal documentation details a messy and controversial process within Tumblr itself. One internal post made by Cyle Gage, a product manager at Tumblr, states that a query made to prepare data for OpenAI and Midjourney compiled a huge number of user posts that it wasn’t supposed to. It is not clear from Gage’s post whether this data has already been sent to OpenAI and Midjourney, or whether Gage was detailing a process for scrubbing the data before it was to be sent.


  • private posts on public blogs
  • posts on deleted or suspended blogs
  • unanswered asks (normally these are not public until they’re answered)
  • private answers (these only show up to the receiver and are not public)

Jason Koebler:

here’s a podcast where we discuss what’s happening and why

Dare Obasanjo:

Access to training data & GPUs is going to be key in AI wars.

The key question is how startups can compete against big tech since both the ability to pay for access to data or model training costs aren’t cheap. This battle favors incumbents.


Update (2024-03-01): Tumblr (via Mike Rockwell):

Proposed regulations around the world, like the European Union’s AI Act, would give individuals more control over whether and how their content is utilized by this emerging technology. We support this right regardless of geographic location, so we’re releasing a toggle to opt out of sharing content from your public blogs with third parties, including AI platforms that use this content for model training. We’re also working with partners to ensure you have as much control as possible regarding what content is used.

Update (2024-03-06): Jason Koebler and Samantha Cole (tweet):

In September 2023, quietly changed the language of a developer page explaining how to access a “Firehose” of roughly a million daily WordPress posts to add that the feeds are “intended for partners like search engines, artificial intelligence (AI) products and market intelligence providers who would like to ingest a real-time stream of new content from a wide spectrum of publishers.” Before then, this page did not note the AI use case.


The truth is that Automattic has been selling access to this “firehose” of posts for years, for a variety of purposes.


This firehose appears to be distinct from any direct data sharing deal with Midjourney and OpenAI, in part because the documentation makes clear that data being sold via this firehose is not limited only to posts on, but also can include posts on self-hosted websites that use Jetpack, a wildly popular plugin that millions of sites use and that users are encouraged to install when setting up a WordPress site.


After this article was published, Automattic told 404 Media that it is “deprecating” the Firehose: “SocialGist is rolling off as a firehose customer this month and the remaining customers are winding down in the coming months[…]

Nick Heer:

I am not particularly surprised to learn that public posts on blogs are part of a massive feed, but I am shocked it is not as obvious that self-hosted WordPress sites with Jetpack installed are automatically opted into it as well.


The New York Times comprehensively blocks known machine learning crawlers, which you can verify by viewing its robots.txt file; the crawlers we are interested in are listed near the bottom, just above all the sitemaps. That is also true for Tumblr. But when I checked a bunch of sites at random — by searching “ inurl:2024” — I found much shorter automatically generated robots.txt files, similar to WordPress’ own. I am not sure why I could not find a single blog with the same opt-out signal.