Why doesn’t “Look Around” cover more areas?

From Justin O’Beirne:

If Apple is unable to algorithmically identify POI information in static images (taken in ideal weather conditions), then how will Apple successfully augment reality?16

And what happens if Apple’s rumored AR headset is ready before its map is?

The short version is that it appears that the sheer volume of POI data in the US is slowing down the rollout of look around. And if that’s the case, Apple is really going to struggle to keep these enhanced maps up-to-date, let alone roll them out in a timely manner. I really love the overall Apple Maps look & feel but I do find myself using Google Maps for most POI searches / quick trips and Apple Maps more for longer car trips where I already know the gist of where I’m headed and want traffic/time info (and a nicer looking map). I don’t think Look Around is a “killer feature” but the underlying lack of trust in their POI database is going to be a problem if they can’t get it sorted out.

On another note, these articles by Justin O’Beirne are so fun to read. I love how he builds toward a conclusion with tons of examples and really nerds out on the map data he’s got access to.

Apple News+ is Actually Good

Last fall, I came across a deal where you could get 4 months of Apple News+ for free. I figured I’d give it a shot to see if it was worth the $10/month as I’m a big believer in paying for quality news. Currently, I get most of my news from RSS, the New York […]

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The M1 Macs

From Daring Fireball:

What you need to understand is that the best aspects of these Macs aren’t benchmarkable. It’s about how nice they are. The cooling system never making any noise doesn’t show up in a benchmark. I suppose you could assign it a decibel value in an anechoic chamber, but silent operation, and a palm rest that remains cool to the touch even under heavy load, aren’t quantities. They’re qualities. They’re just nice.

So far it appears that the new M1 Macs are a performance, efficiency and UX win. They’re an improvement in nearly every way, yet within the same enclosure as before.

The webcams still stink, however.

Overall, this is a great review of the entire experience of using  these new Macs and it has me very excited to upgrade whenever I end up buying a new machine.

The HomePod Video

I’ve owned a lot of smart speakers in the past few years but I think the device I’ve enjoyed the most is the Google Nest Hub (I think that’s what they’re calling it this year). It does a few things really well: Music playback control Smart home controls Can be a video casting target, also […]

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Bundled ‘Apple One’ Subscription Announced

From Nick Heer @ Pixel Envy:

I have reservations about how this will be promoted. I can see many push notifications, modal banners, and emails in my future telling me about how, for the same price I pay now, I can also have Apple Arcade. Or, for just a few dollars more, I can get News Plus and Fitness Plus. Thanks, but no thanks.

This is the thing that gives me the most discomfort about Apple’s services offerings. When you offer service tiers (Apple News and then a “Plus” service on top of that, etc) along with a bundle, your incentives as a company become misaligned. The marginal cost for Apple to throw in a banner or notification pushing their own content or services is extremely low as it is their platform, and therefore they’re way more likely to slip one or two of these in to push newer services in particular. Once that pattern is established, it will slowly find its way into every part of the OS. From a blog post by Steve Streza earlier this year that has a ton of great screenshots showing how bad this is getting:

Apple wants to grow their services business with drastic increases year-over-year. This means they are going to aggressively push more services into more places (including deeper into macOS and tvOS, which are also slowly having adware trickled into them). Apple TV+, News+, Arcade, and Card are all new this year, and are already strongly advertised in iOS. Apple Music has existed for a few years, and its level of advertising in the app is pervasive. As time goes on, these ads are going to get worse, not better.

I’m an Apple Music and iCloud subscriber currently and have tried a few of their other “Plus” offerings over the past year or so as they’ve come online. I actually like most of the services they offer and might try out this bundle as my kids get a little older and could make use of Arcade more. What bugs me the most is that there’s no way to fully disable the “Plus” experience if you’re not interested in Apple Arcade, News+, and now Fitness+. I don’t begrudge Apple for wanting to build on their platform to make it more sticky and a better overall integrated experience for their customers – I do begrudge them for prioritizing growth over respect for users who may not be interested.

Apple’s App Store Issues

If you’ve been under a technology rock, you might have missed the kerfuffle Apple’s been in for the past few months. We’ve seen a few high-profile dust ups over Apple’s control of what goes on the App Store (HEY, Microsoft’s xCloud, Fortnite). The arguments vary for each of these but the common issue is that […]

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Here’s why Apple believes it’s an AI leader—and why it says critics have it all wrong

From Saumel Axon at Ars Technica:

If big tech companies and venture capital investments are to be believed, AI and machine learning will only become more ubiquitous in the coming years. However it shakes out, Giannandrea and Borchers made one thing clear: machine learning now plays a part in much of what Apple does with its products, and many of the features consumers use daily. And with the Neural Engine coming to Macs starting this fall, machine learning’s role at Apple will likely continue to grow.

John Giannandrea joined Apple a few years ago from Google to run the AI part of the business and the fruits of his expertise appear to be paying off according to this article. There’s a lot of direct quotes and anecdotes in this article, but near the end you get the feeling that there’s a cultural shift happening in Cupertino:

After a long track record of mostly working on AI features in the dark, Apple’s emphasis on machine learning has greatly expanded over the past few years.

The company is publishing regularly, it’s doing academic sponsorships, it has fellowships, it sponsors labs, it goes to AI/ML conferences. It recently relaunched a machine learning blog where it shares some of its research. It has also been on a hiring binge, picking up engineers and others in the machine learning space—including Giannandrea himself just two years ago.

Remember when Giannandrea said he was surprised that machine learning wasn’t used for handwriting with the Pencil? He went on to see the creation of the team that made it happen. And in tandem with other teams, they moved forward with machine learning-driven handwriting—a cornerstone in iPadOS 14.
It appears that behind the scenes there’s a decent amount of restructuring happening that should help Apple deliver more practical enhancements to experiences without just shouting “AI” from the rooftops the way that Google does. Users don’t actually care about those implementation details, they just want nifty products that work well and get out of the way.

WWDC 2020 Initial Thoughts

The WWDC 2020 “pandemic edition” is now behind us, and it was one of the better ones I’ve seen in quite some time. Apple announced a lot in the 2 hour presentation, with iOS and MacOS getting the bulk of the attention this year. What follows is a quick rundown of my thoughts after watching […]

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Apple, HEY, and the path forward

From the HEY blog (I really hate that name):

So we got down to it, and worked the weekend to get an update on Apple’s desk Monday morning. Our team did a great job implementing the product changes that Schiller asked for, and first thing this morning, right after we shipped 1.0.2 to our customers, we submitted 1.0.3 to the App Store for approval.

Glad to see some compromises are being made. I do hope this is the beginning and not the end, however. This is an opportunity for Apple to alter their rules to make the App Store better for developers and customers.