'Apple Car: Destination Unknown'

Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors, in a smart think piece on the Apple Car rumors:

It’s entirely reasonable that an Apple executive would try to imagine the auto industry of 20 or 30 years from now and see those trends lead to a logical conclusion: A fleet of vehicles with electric engines that feature deep integration of hardware and software, possibly up to the point of being self-driving or at least with optional auto-drive capabilities in some circumstances.

Despite my joking that, due to my low vision and lack of a driver's license, an Apple Car would be of no use to me whatsoever, reading Jason's piece made me realize something. Come 2035 or 2045, perhaps the auto industry (and the bureaucracy that, ahem, drives it) will be in a place that I could make use of a car, albeit a self-driving one. I get on my Jony Ive-designed Apple Car, use CarPlay to tell the car where I want to go, and off I go. My very own Uber, essentially.

This is pure speculation, of course. But for visually impaired people whose vision precludes them right now from driving --- and the freedom that driving affords --- a self-driving Apple Car could represent the zenith of accessibility. No longer would we need to rely on public transit or a ride-sharing service or the kindness of others to get anywhere not within reasonable walking distance. As I said, all we'd need to do is hop in our car, tap a few buttons, and go. Yes, we'd need to worry then about insurance and maintenance of the vehicle, but the upside in accessibility would almost be too great to pass up.

'I'm Going to Fucking Hawaii'

Casey Newton for The Verge, in a profile of digital savings service Digit:

Here’s how Digit works. You can sign up for an account on the desktop web or on your phone; you’ll need your banking information handy, but the process is relatively painless. By signing up, you’re creating a new savings account, managed by Digit and insured by the FDIC. Once you’ve built up some savings in Digit, you manage it with simple text commands: text "withdraw" along with an amount, and Digit moves the money from your savings account back into checking. The service is "free" in that there’s no fee to use it, but it does come at a cost: your Digit savings account doesn’t pay interest. (Digit has a good FAQ here.)

[...]

Digit was designed so that you can interact with it entirely through SMS. Once a day it will text you with your checking account balance; you can text back commands to view your Digit balance, check recent transactions, or move your money back and forth. For now, there are no plans for an app beyond the mobile web version of the site. "We want to see how far we can push it SMS-only," Bloch says. I appreciate the simplicity of SMS, but it feels a bit basic for something as important to me as my personal finances. (I’d much rather have push notifications and a native app, myself.)

I first heard of (and signed up for) Digit on MG Siegler's recommendation, and I'm a fan. It's been almost a month, and I've already amassed $120 in savings. As Newton writes, the best part about Digit is the saving is done automatically, without you having to think about it. It's a wonderful idea executed very well. I would prefer a native app, among other things, but so far, so good using the service.

On the Apple Car Rumors

MG Siegler, writing at Medium, offers his take on the "Apple's developing a car" buzz:

[W]e already know Steve Jobs wanted to build a car. Phil Schiller has said Apple thought about building a car in the past — and is a car guy. Jony Ive is a car guy. Eddy Cue, car guy. At some point, it would be almost like Apple was going out of its way not to build a car.

CarPlay is essentially Apple’s “Rokr” play here. You partner to test the waters and gain some intel, biding your time until you go all-in. And when that time rolls around, the automotive world is likely to be a very different place than it is right now. Electric cars galore. Self-driving cars a reality. Etc.

I've joked on Twitter that an Apple Car would be off-limits for me to review, because my low vision precludes me from getting a driver's license. My only recourse would be to hire a chauffeur to drive me around in it.

'The Loop Magazine' Issue 31

The new issue of Jim Dalrymple's The Loop Magazine is out this morning, and there's an article by me.

In my piece, "Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memories --- And Accessibility", I write about the documentary film Alive Inside and the iPod's impact on accessibility to the elderly. Included in the story is an email interview I conducted with the film's protagonist, Dan Cohen.

Apple Planning Launch of iOS Public Beta Program

Mark Gurman, reporting for 9to5 Mac:

In an effort to eliminate bugs from upcoming iOS versions ahead of their general releases, Apple plans to launch the first-ever public beta program for the iOS operating system, according to multiple people briefed on the plans. Following the successful launch of the OS X Public Beta program with OS X Yosemite last year, Apple intends to release the upcoming iOS 8.3 as a public beta via the company’s existing AppleSeed program in mid-March, according to the sources. This release will match the third iOS 8.3 beta for developers, which is planned for release the same week. Apple then expects to debut iOS 9 at its June Worldwide Developer Conference, with a public beta release during the summer, and final release in the fall…

[...]

The main goal of the iOS beta program will be a more reliable and widely tested operating system by the time of the wider consumer launch, as Apple has come under fire for lack of quality control in iOS 8. Launching public beta versions of iOS will also reduce the demand for unauthorized sales of beta downloads from developer accounts, which enabled some consumers to test-drive future iOS features. Apple Vice President of iPhone and iOS Marketing Greg Joswiak publicly shared his concern regarding these blackmarket businesses, saying that Apple planned to fight those in the future.

'Modern Family' Episode Shot Entirely with iPhones

Nick Bilton, reporting for The New York Times:

Over a series of late October days, camera operators working on an episode of ABC’s “Modern Family” set aside their typical high-definition videocameras and picked up iPhones. The command “Action!” was followed by a tap of that familiar red button on the device’s small video screen.

The result, which will be shown next Wednesday, Feb. 25, is an episode shot almost exclusively on mobile devices, an approximation of the way that many actual modern American families (of a certain class) communicate today.

A bit gimmicky, but a testament to the camera quality Apple has achieved with the iPhone.

(via Daring Fireball)

'I'm Brianna Wu, And I'm Risking My Life Standing Up To Gamergate'

Brianna Wu, writing for Bustle:

Software increasingly defines the world around us. It’s rewriting everything about human interaction — I spend a lot more time on my iPhone than I do at my local civic center. Facebook, Apple, Tinder, Snapchat, and Google create our social realities — how we make friends, how we get jobs, and how mankind interacts. And the truth is, women don’t truly have a seat at the table.

This has disastrous consequences for women that use these systems built by men for men. I must use Twitter, as it’s a crucial networking tool for a software engineer, yet I must also suffer constant harassment. Women’s needs are not heard, our truth is never spoken. These systems are the next frontier of human evolution, and they’re increasingly dangerous for us.

On Green Bubble Friends

Paul Ford examines the significance of blue (iMessage) and green (Android) when texting:

The bubbles are a subtle, little, silly thing but they are experienced by millions of people. That amplifies that product decision into a unsubtle, large, sort-of-serious thing. The people who are tweeting negatively about green bubbles are following Apple’s lead. It’s speculative, but not totally speculative to say that Apple may be aware it’s leading this way—after all, Apple has done passive-aggressive product design before, like giving Windows machines on its network a “Blue Screen of Death” icon.

There was a time in my iPhone using life1 that I texted more with green bubble friends than with blue, but those days are long gone. These days, the majority of my texting is done over iMessage.

(via Daring Fireball)

  1. Where by "my iPhone-using life", I mean since 2011 -- iMessage debuted that year with iOS 5.

On Brian Williams and NBC

Manuel Roig-Franzia, Scott Higham, and Paul Farhi, reporting for The Washington Post:

Senior NBC officials seriously considered firing anchor Brian Williams because he lied to his viewers about riding in a military helicopter hit by a rocket-propelled grenade during the Iraq war, according to a top network official.

The ultimate decision to suspend Williams for six months was made after an internal investigation unearthed other “instances of exaggeration,” according to a person familiar with intense behind-the-scenes discussions between network officials and Williams.

[...]

Internally, Williams, 55, was fighting hard to preserve his reputation and his job. He was calling people at all hours, looking for some kind of an escape route, according to a top network official. “They were clinging to the, ‘Gee I just conflated my facts here’ story,” the network official said.

Jon Stewart Leaving 'The Daily Show'

Twitter went nuts after news broke that Jon Stewart announced he's leaving The Daily Show.

Here's Stewart's farewell speech:

It's always seemed ironic to me that, for a "fake" newscast, Stewart made The Daily Show the real news, at least to me. He skewered the mainstream media for their bullshit political coverage that resonated with so many. His show was the best "news" on TV, and I'm sad to see Stewart go.

Of all the tweets I saw on Stewart's announcement, this one was the best.

On iOS's 'Snow Leopard' Release

Mark Gurman reports for 9to5 Mac that iOS 9 will have a "huge stability and optimization focus":

For 2015, iOS 9 is going to include a collection of under-the-hood improvements. Sources tell us that iOS 9 engineers are putting a “huge” focus on fixing bugs, maintaining stability, and boosting performance for the new operating system, rather than solely focusing on delivering major new feature additions. Apple will also continue to make efforts to keep the size of the OS and updates manageable, especially for the many millions of iOS device owners with 16GB devices.

If true, this is terrific news. Apple must be listening to all the criticism.

Apple In Talks With TV Execs Regarding TV Service

Peter Kafka, reporting for Recode:

Industry executives say Apple is in talks with TV programmers about deals that would allow Apple to offer an “over the top” pay-TV service, like the one Dish has started selling with its Sling TV product, and the one Sony is getting ready to launch.

The theory is that Apple would put together bundles of programming — but not the entire TV lineup that pay-TV providers generally offer — and sell it directly to consumers, over the Web. That means Apple wouldn’t be reinventing the way TV works today, but offering its own version of it, with its own interface and user experience.

Apple has shown programmers demos of the proposed service, sources say. But talks seem to be in the early stages, which means terms like pricing and timing aren’t close to being ironed out. Several programmers say they’ve yet to start talks with Apple at all.

(via Six Colors)

'Why Google Glass Broke'

Well-sourced piece by Nick Bilton for the NYT, on why Glass was such a failure:

At the time, unknown to anyone outside X, an impassioned split was forming between X engineers about the most basic functions of Google Glass. One faction argued that it should be worn all day, like a “fashionable device,” while others thought it should be worn only for specific utilitarian functions. Still, nearly everyone at X was in agreement that the current prototype was just that: a prototype, with major kinks to be worked out.

There was one notable dissenter. Mr. Brin knew Google Glass wasn’t a finished product and that it needed work, but he wanted that to take place in public, not in a top-secret lab. Mr. Brin argued that X should release Glass to consumers and use their feedback to iterate and improve the design.

I saw someone last year wearing Glass, at Costco of all places. I remember her telling somebody how much she loved Glass, and how wearable computing was the future.

'Why the iPad Became My Main Computer'

Federico Viticci reviews the iPad Air 2 for MacStories:

The iPad, for me, is a product of intangibles. How its portable nature blurs the line between desktop computers and mobile. How a vibrant developer community strives to craft apps that make us do better work and record memories and enjoy moments and be productive and entertained. The iPad, for me, is a screen that connects me with people and helps me with my life's work anywhere I am. Transformative and empowering, with the iPad Air 2 being its best incarnation to date. Not for everyone, still improvable, but absolutely necessary for me. And, I believe, for others.

Liberating. The iPad is a computer that lets me work and communicate at my own pace, no matter where I am.

Like Federico, my iPad Air 1 is effectively my main computer. Nearly every one of my freelance articles are written on my iPad --- on the soft keyboard, no less --- as well as the majority of my Web browsing, Twitter, email, and so on. There is an accessibility angle to this, as the iPad's design makes it easier to hold and see, but the main reason is that the iPad gets the job done. I don't need a full-blown Mac for most tasks, and I appreciate iOS's one-app-at-a-time approach. It's refreshing.