Remembering Stan Lee

From the New York Times Obit:

If Stan Lee revolutionized the comic book world in the 1960s, which he did, he left as big a stamp — maybe bigger — on the even wider pop culture landscape of today.

Think of “Spider-Man,” the blockbuster movie franchise and Broadway spectacle. Think of “Iron Man,” another Hollywood gold-mine series personified by its star, Robert Downey Jr. Think of “Black Panther,” the box-office superhero smash that shattered big screen racial barriers in the process.

And that is to say nothing of the Hulk, the X-Men, Thor and other film and television juggernauts that have stirred the popular imagination and made many people very rich.

If all that entertainment product can be traced to one person, it would be Stan Lee, who died in Los Angeles on Monday at 95. From a cluttered office on Madison Avenue in Manhattan in the 1960s, he helped conjure a lineup of pulp-fiction heroes that has come to define much of popular culture in the early 21st century.

The 2018 Ipad Pros

John Gruber:

The iPad Pro is like a computer from an alternate universe. In the normal universe, Moore’s Law has stopped delivering significant year-over-year returns, and high-performance portables need fans to cool them. In the iPad universe, Moore’s Law still delivers year after year, and a super-fast, genuinely “pro” portable needs no fan.

[…]

The new Apple Pencil is one of the best “2.0” products I’ve ever seen. The original Apple Pencil is a terrific product, but the new one nears perfection for the concept.

[…]

I’ve been using the 12.9-inch model for testing over the last five days. It’s a lot easier and more comfortable to hold. There have been times when I forgot I was using the “big” iPad.

[…]

iPad is not really a multi-user device, because unlike MacOS, iOS still doesn’t have any concept of user accounts. But I know that many people use iPads as shared family devices. iOS 12 limits you to two faces with Face ID — your default face and an “alternate appearance”.

[…]

The new Smart Keyboard Folio cover is a much better design than the old Smart Keyboard. As promised by Apple, it’s much sturdier and more stable. Apple is really serious about all these magnets. They work. The downside, though, is that it’s thicker on the device, because it covers the front and back. I think this trade-off is worth it.

Austin Mann: A Photographer’s Review of the iPad Pro

Austin Mann has published an excellent review of the new iPad Pro for photographers:

I was working with Mavic Pro 2 in the black volcanic deserts of south Iceland. While sitting in the car (in the middle of the desert, in the middle of nowhere), I decided to offload my images and review them.

I pulled out the iPad Pro and a card reader, and within only a few moments I was reviewing them on screen. Next thing I knew I was editing them with the Pencil in Lightroom CC and then I shared one with my wife—all within just a few moments.

It’s really easy to sit just about anywhere (even with a steering wheel in your face) and not just use it, but use it to its full extent. Another cool feature in this scenario is eSIM.

Because the iPad Pro is connected to cellular, even in the middle of nowhere Iceland, I could quickly share the images without even thinking about my connection, WiFi, hotspots, etc. Time wasn’t mission critical on this shoot, but in a scenario where time is of the essence, this kind of workflow could be a game-changer.

Samsung shares a glimpse of its folding ‘Infinity Flex Display’ smartphone

Lucas Matney, writing for TechCrunch:

After hyping its unveil of its long-rumored folding smartphone, Samsung kind of delivered an announcement, revealing a dual-screen folding phone prototype.

“How can we make the screen bigger without actually increasing the size of the device itself?” a Samsung exec posited onstage.

The company showcased a prototype of its “Infinity Flex Display,” a device that can be unfolded. In a pitch black room, a company exec showcased the device, which was housed in a larger case to “obscure the form factor.” There’s a conventional outer display on the front with a fairly low screen-to-body ration, but when you unfold the phone, there’s a massive 7.3″ display on the inside.

It’s clear that despite hyping this “innovation,” Samsung isn’t quite ready to release a device of this type yet. The company says it will start mass production of the new display type in the coming months. The company teased more announcements surrounding the device at the next Samsung Unpacked event in 2019.

Whether this is the future of the phablet or not, it’s certainly an evolution of the smartphone form factor. Samsung believes that the folding display is the “foundation of the smartphone of tomorrow,” but whether there’s more beyond the gimmick certainly wasn’t clarified today.

Marvel’s Unreleased 1994 Fantastic Four Movie Is Now on Youtube

MovieWeb:

Perhaps the most famously bad Marvel movie in history is now available to watch in its entirety online. In 1994, a low-budget The Fantastic Four movie was completed, but never released and has existed in infamy ever since.

In an era long before the creation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and even a few years before Blade would help establish Marvel as a brand that could do business at the box office, this cheap monstrosity happened. And now, those brave enough can view it for themselves.

iPad Pro Review Roundup: Impressive Hardware Held Back by iOS Limitations

John Vorhees, reviewing the new iPad Pro:

The initial reviews of Apple’s new iPad Pros are out. There is a general consensus that the hardware is impressive, but many reviewers conclude that limitations of iOS are holding the device back. Here are highlights from some of the reviews:

[…]

In terms of day-to-day work, some reviewers found that accomplishing particular tasks on an iPad Pro was more difficult than on a Mac:

Scott Stein, writing for Cnet:

For me, the whole experience and new ease of charging now makes the Pencil more likely for me to use, instead of ignore. It feels like a part of the iPad, now.

Editing, though? That’s another story. I use a trackpad to edit. Apple allows a virtual trackpad in iOS 12 using the onscreen software keyboard, but there isn’t an option for the physical keyboard.

Geoffrey Fowler, writing for the Washington Post:

While iOS 12 has a few keyboard shortcuts that help zip between apps, what I was missing was a degree of information density. Everyone has a different way of working, but sometimes on a Mac I’ll have five windows open at once, passively monitoring messages, email, Slack, Twitter and music. On the iPad, I had to keep flipping through apps in an attempt to stay tuned in. Some iPad apps don’t even show you the time and battery level along the top edge.

[…]

Although reviewers were impressed with the new iPad Pro’s hardware, many were frustrated by iOS. Patel concludes that:

Apple’s approach to iOS is holding that hardware back in serious and meaningful ways, and while USB-C makes life with this new iPad Pro slightly easier, it still has the same basic capabilities and limitations of last year’s iPad Pro.

Cnet’s Stein has a similar take:

But the iPad Pro just isn’t flexible enough, yet. The browser is not the same as a desktop-level experience, which can make it hard to work with web tools. No trackpad on the optional keyboard and no support for mice makes text editing cumbersome. Furthermore, iOS hasn’t changed enough. It’s way too much like an evolution of the iPhone, instead of a fully evolved computer desktop. And the current crop of available apps don’t yet exploit this awesome new hardware.

Although opinions differ on whether the iPad Pro can replace a Mac, it’s clear that the hardware has advanced to the point where it exceeds many of the laptops in Apple’s line. As Federico and I discuss on today’s episode of AppStories, the next year and iOS 13, in particular, will be critically important in justifying the ‘pro’ in the ‘iPad Pro.’ In the coming weeks, we’ll have in-depth coverage of the new iPad Pro on MacStories, so stay tuned.

Apple is Throttling iPhones Again

Adam Clark Estes for Gizmodo:

You can now download and install iOS 12.1. That means you’ll finally be able to use Group FaceTime (LOL), access over 70 new emoji, and get rid of the annoying image blur that caused “Beautygate.” If you own an iPhone 8 or iPhone X, it also means that your processor will get throttled as the battery degrades in order to avoid unexpected shutdowns. It’s okay if this doesn’t seem like a neat feature. It’s actually very controversial!

Perhaps as a result, the processor-throttling detail is sort of buried in the release notes for iOS 12.1. Near the bottom of a long list and under the header “Other improvements and fixes,” the document reads:

Adds a performance management feature to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down, including the option to disable this feature if an unexpected shutdown occurs, for iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus.

The iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR are not mentioned. And again, Apple says that the feature can be turned off if an unexpected shutdown occurs. Upon updating, we did not find an option in the Battery menu to disable the feature ahead of time, so it remains unclear how said disabling will happen.

While it’s a new feature on the iPhone X and iPhone 8 devices, battery-related processor throttling has existed on older iPhones for a while now. It’s also been the subject of a very heated public debate for nearly a year.

The company says its “goal is to deliver the best experience for customers.” Some customers disagree about this approach, which is understandable since Apple made their iPhones slower and didn’t bother to tell them about it. However, battery degradation is inevitable, and without some sort of intervention, it’s very likely that iPhones would become unusable sooner than they already do, if Apple didn’t apply some sort of fix to manage power usage in old batteries.

Before we go into what’s next, let’s review what’s happened so far in the throttling scandal. At some point in the past—and without informing its customers—Apple started limiting the power draw of processors in old phones to keep them from spontaneously turning off and to lengthen the battery’s lifespan.

But after a bunch of Reddit users and benchmark app maker Primate Labs figured out what was happening, Apple faced a torrent of outrage not only from its customers, who felt like Apple was making their devices slower for no good reason, as well as regulators, who felt like Apple wasn’t properly informing consumers about its products.

The company got hit with a $5.7 million fine from Italy’s antitrust organization over the issue, and at least two groups filed class action lawsuits. Senator John Thune also demanded answers about how Apple was going to fix it. Somewhere in the middle of all this happening, Apple slashed the price of battery replacements from $79 to $29. A new battery would, in theory, put a stop to the throttling.

The tricky thing is that Apple never stopped throttling the processors in older phones with degrading batteries. It just got caught doing it, and then issued an update to iOS that gave people access to more information about their battery health. Apple also responded to Senator Thune detailing these software updates and claiming that “iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X models include hardware updates that allow a more advanced performance management system that more precisely allows iOS to anticipate and avoid an unexpected shutdown.” Apple didn’t explicitly say that newer devices wouldn’t get throttled.
So until now, the throttling scandal has boiled down to two things.

One, Apple throttled people’s phones in the name of better battery performance.

Two, the company didn’t bother telling its customers about this, and those people and some government agencies got very mad about the lack of transparency.

You could argue that Apple resolved the transparency complaint by apologizing last year and making battery replacements cheaper. You could argue that it solved the throttling complaint by including hardware updates in newer iPhones so that they may not need to be throttled. Except now Apple is throttling the new devices, too.

If not slightly confusing, the latest update in the scandal is evidence that Apple can’t just stop throttling processors in devices with old batteries. Batteries will inevitably fail, and Apple wants its iPhones to remain functional as long as possible.

And while the fact that the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, and iPhone XR aren’t mentioned in the release notes, we can only assume that Apple will introduce the throttling feature to those phones in a few months or a year. Or maybe the new devices also have hardware updates that might make throttling unnecessary. We don’t know for sure, because the company hasn’t really explained what’s happening.

WTF Apple?

The Biggening

Lucas Matney, for TechCrunch:

The iPhone SE died. The iPad Mini was last upgraded in 2015. The 11-inch MacBook Air died years ago. The smaller Series 4 Apple  Watch has a bigger display than the larger Series 3 Apple Watch.

Apple’s smallest devices are slowly getting bigger and the company’s events don’t suggest those ambitions are going to stop. While the release of the truly monstrous 6.5” iPhone XS Max last month embodies this trend in the most readily apparent way, the way Apple has emphasized external displays on its new iPad Pro and its MacBook Pro line are perhaps more telling of the company’s future ambitions, a world where displays are boundless.

If you’re thinking that Apple can only make displays so much bigger while reducing the sizes of the device, there’s a lot further they can take this.

Apple’s wants bigger displays.

The old iPad Pro was perhaps too big; it’s massive form factor was great for creative tasks but it was one of the most niche devices Apple had released in recent years. The company’s new 12.9” iPad Pro reaches for the edges more but shrinks its overall footprint in the process, turning the somewhat novelty device into what I imagine will be a much more palatable mainstream product. The smaller Pro jumped from 10.5” to 11” while maintaining an overall size similar to its predecessor.

Much in the way that the iPhone 6S Plus was the “big” phone when it came out with a 5.5″ display, and consumers buying it were making that choice for themselves, Apple is shaping the new-normal. The 5.8″ iPhone XS and 6.5″ iPhone XS Max show that. With the new Apple Watch Series 4, Apple made the decision to make the devices bigger, bumping the 38mm and 42mm watches up to 40mm and 44mm sizes. The upgrade signified that Apple felt that even its biggest tiny display was still too small.

One of the other big changes on the new iPad Pros was the use of USB-C and a big reason Apple was fine ditching its proprietary port is that it really wanted to enable the device to drive 5K external displays. Apple wants the device to be at the heart of creatives’ workflows but it still sees its display size as a limiting factor.

Today we also saw Apple make a number of big improvements to the 13.3” MacBook Air that seem to overshadow the 12” MacBook in major ways, throwing into question whether the 12″ device is too small a form factor for Apple to continue supporting. And while the company no longer sells a 17-inch MacBook Pro, their latest 15-inch MacBook Pro was built to power up to four 4K displays so that should tell you quite a bit about where the company is moving.

Today’s Apple Special Event

Apple held their hardware event today (click the link to watch the keynote)

Announced today were a New iPad Pro:

Apple today introduced the new iPad Pro with all-screen design and next-generation performance, marking the biggest change to iPad ever. The all-new design pushes 11-inch and 12.9-inch Liquid Retina displays to the edges of iPad Pro and integrates Face ID to securely unlock iPad with just a glance.

The A12X Bionic chip with next-generation Neural Engine in iPad Pro outperforms most PC laptops and offers a new USB-C connector, Gigabit-class LTE, and up to 1TB of storage to enable powerful new mobile workflows.

There weren’t a lot of surprises here, as the iPad Pro went to Face ID and lost the home button. Dropping Lightning for USB-C has been rumored for a while as well, I wonder if we’ll start seeing the iPhones switch to USB-C next year?

The Apple Pencil also got an update, gaining wireless charging, magnetic pairing,  tap gestures and a new flat styling.

A new 13 inch MacBook air:

Apple today introduced an all-new MacBook Air, bringing a stunning 13-inch Retina display, Touch ID, the latest processors and an even more portable design to the world’s most loved notebook. Delivering the all-day battery life it’s known for, the new MacBook Air is available in three gorgeous finishes — gold, space gray and silver.

The most affordable Retina-display Mac ever also includes an Apple-designed keyboard, a spacious Force Touch trackpad, faster SSDs, wide stereo sound, the Apple T2 Security Chip and Thunderbolt 3, making the new MacBook Air the perfect notebook to take with you everywhere you go.

This was a much needed update to the MacBook Air.

And a new Mac mini:

Apple today gave Mac mini a massive increase in performance. Now with quad- and 6-core processors, up to 64GB of faster memory and blazing fast all-flash storage, the new Mac mini delivers an insane five times faster performance, making it the most powerful Mac mini ever made.

And with Thunderbolt 3 ports, the Apple T2 Security Chip and a 10Gb Ethernet option, the new Mac mini is a faster and more capable desktop that can do so much more.

Again, a much needed hardware upgrade, the Mac mini needed this upgrade and it finally got it.