A Fleeting Glimpse


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

Unsolicited feedback on Twitter’s new ‘Fleets’ feature

So… Fleets. Oh, Fleets. I said I would wait to weigh in. I have waited a day. I really don’t understand Fleets.

I mean, I do at a conceptual level. Many (most?) people are afraid to tweet. Fleets are like tweets but less rigid. Less permanent. Less text-y. They’re like Stories. Which everyone knows from Instagram, but should know from Snapchat. They’re what the cool kids used before TikTok.

On Twitter, they’re a format in search of a problem. Again, I get the problem they think they’re going after, I just have a hard time seeing how Fleets solves that problem. They’re sort of a clunky, ham-fisted approach to something people would rather do on the aforementioned Instagram or Snapchat. Yes, yes, yes, it worked when Instagram cloned the feature. But that’s because it was a feature that was compatible with Instagram’s core: visual storytelling. That is not Twitter’s core.

I could see a world in which Fleets work, but as a different version of the product which was launched. No one is asking for my product ideas, so I’m going to give them. I would keep Fleets — which is a great name — simple: they’re tweets that go away after a set period of time. They reside not in some unnatural carousel at the top of the feed but in the feed itself. They’re highlighted in some way to showcase their impermanence.¹

That’s it. That’s the product.

Now, couldn’t you just create tweets with such functionality? Just as there are some tweets which anyone can respond to and some which are limited now? Sure, you could do that. But this is more fun. I actually like the idea of making Fleets a more visual-first product, but I would do it in a way that flows in the same tweet feed. Instead of making images a payload option as they are on tweets, with Fleets, you could start with the image and add text if you’d like. This is what you can currently do with Fleets. And tweets with pictures are popular. So we’re close.

The problem, as I see it, is largely with the UI and overhead of how Fleets are currently implemented. Again, I get why Twitter copied the Stories paradigm — it has been proven to work; you don’t need to explain it — but it actively detracts and distracts from Twitter’s core: the feed.

To us power users, having a bunch of avatar bubbles, many with the usernames cut off, is just visual cruft at the top of what we want to be a dense information feed. To non-power users, clicking into Fleets/Stories takes them away from the feed, where they may never come back. And again, you’re not going to out-Story Instagram or Snapchat, so what’s the point?²

I also come bearing an additional gift: another idea. What if instead of being a hugely distracting carousel of heads cluttering up and shoving down a text-heavy feed in ways not seen since Facebook Messenger tried and failed at the same thing for the same reason, we simply put Fleets in a List.

Lists on Twitter are amazing. They always have been. And very few people seem to use them because they require both work to create and maintenance to keep them useful. Fleets could be an excellent gateway drug to Lists. Throw away the bubble heads and instead just swipe to the right for a Fleets Feed. Again, I think this should be a feed in the traditional style and not in the Stories style, but I recognize this may be wrong. In that case, maybe you get to Fleets by swiping to the left and all your other lists are to the right of the main feed. I’m open to riffs on this idea. I just want the second carousel, which functions differently from the top (list) carousel to be removed.

The Fleet Bar has to go.

One more thing: we need to talk about DMs. This is another insanely powerful part of Twitter that has long been underutilized. Fleets helps get DMs a lot more usage, but in a way that makes them decidedly less useful and is training us all to hate such notifications. This is not good.

Reactions to Fleets belong in Notifications with all other… notifications. No need to show them to the world, but the Fleet creator can see them there. If someone actually has something to say in response to a Fleet, that’s fine. That can be a DM, if you have DMs turned on from people you don’t follow. If not, silence remains golden.

Anyway, this is a lot of words about a pretty simple tweak and concept for Fleets. Unsolicited words, no less. But since no one is asking, one of the two ideas above is how I would do it.

¹ That idea — that some content in your Twitter feed has an expiration date — may also lead to people checking it more often? Imagine a “check these Fleets out before they’re gone” type feature. Like those ‘Movies Leaving Netflix This Month’ lists, which I love as a forcing function

² Just for the record, I also think that Instagram Reels — their TikTok clone — is a confusing mess of a UI/UX.


A Fleeting Glimpse was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Goldilocks iPhone 12


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

Tempted by the Max and Mini, I went with the “just right” Regular

My new ‘M1’ MacBook Air arrived today, which I’m beyond excited about. But I wanted to make sure to get my thoughts down about the iPhone 12 before it’s on to the latest and greatest Apple device. Part of why I haven’t shared any thoughts yet is because 13 years into getting a new iPhone every year, I don’t have very many things to say that haven’t already been said. But the other reason is that this was a bit of a weird year for me with regard to the upgrade.

Medium vs. Max vs. Mini

To tackle the latter, first: I ended up buying an iPhone 12 Pro — Pacific Blue, 256 GB — on launch day last month partially because the iPhone 12 Pro Max wasn’t yet available. I had assumed that once it became available, as it did earlier this month, I would “upgrade” to that device. Because I’ve been sporting a “Max” iPhone for the past couple of years, and the “Plus” models before that, I’m accustomed to the big-ass iPhones. Still, knowing the Max model was going to get even bigger this year, and with the aforementioned release delay, I figured I’d try out the boring old “regular” iPhone 12 Pro first.

And here I am a month later, still rocking that device. I had a 12 Pro Max all teed up to order on that launch day and I… just decided not to pull the trigger. Part of it was wanting to see what the reviewers would say about the larger device. The biggest selling point beyond the biggest screen (if you consider that to be a selling point) is the camera system, which is better than the one found on the 12 Pro simply because there’s more space for the lenses to maneuver. It’s seemingly better in low light and has better zoom as a result.

But the reviews sure make it seem as if the difference between the 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max cameras is hardly noticeable. Except in some specific circumstances, you’re unlikely to get much benefit from the more advanced camera, the thinking goes. And I buy this — so at least for now, I’m not buying it. Well that plus the fact that the difference in size, while not massive, is apparently quite noticeable. That seems to have more to do with the return to the flat sides iPhone 4/5-esque design here. And holding the iPhone 12 Pro “regular”, I can see how that would be the case, without a case.

So then it comes down to the iPhone 12 Pro Max having a better battery — again, thanks solely to its bigness. That does matter to me. But not enough to make the change right now. I think I want to see how the large device feels in-hand before I pull the trigger. And that means going to an Apple Store. And with the country in the midst of locking down once again, it may be a while…

One more thing. While the reports about the iPhone 12 Pro Max are that it may be too big, the reports about the iPhone 12 mini largely seem to be fawning over that size. And I’m not surprised! I am very tempted to go small too, perhaps even if it means losing the ‘Pro’ camera system. But again, I want to hold it to know for sure. And so for now, I hold the iPhone 12 Pro.

The iPhone 12 Pro ‘Regular’

Again, I’m not sure how much there is to say about the iPhone 12 Pro that isn’t simply an extrapolation of the iPhones that came before it. It’s faster, but not noticeably so. The screen is better, but not noticeably so. It’s also bluer, but also incredibly not so noticeably so! Unlike the more striking colors of the iPhone 12, the Pro varients are decidedly muted.

Oh, right. 5G. 5G 5G 5G 5G 5G 5G 5G 5G 5G 5G 5G and 5G 5G 5G 5G 5G 5G. That was your keynote, folks. But what’s wild is that even 5G isn’t a noticeable step-up in my day-to-day usage in any real meaningful way. Here’s how true that statement is: for the first two weeks I had the device, I had absolutely no idea that I needed to upgrade my plan with AT&T to get access to 5G. I was some combination of confused about their bullshit ‘5GE’ marketing ploy, and/or thinking I may just not be in an area that had “real” 5G coverage.

It turns out that I was, but again, I needed to upgrade my plan to get it. It’s insane that AT&T didn’t alert me to this fact. Yes, I bought the phone unlocked (versus it being tied into AT&T right out of the box), but still, when I popped in my AT&T SIM they should have known I was using a 5G-compatible phone on their network and alerted me I would need to change my plan to take advantage? Instead, I found out the way I find out about most things these days, including presidential elections: Twitter. Again, this is wild.

Of course, once I did turn on “real” 5G it was… not really noticeably faster for the vast majority of things I do. I think photos are being sent via iMessage a bit faster, which is nice. But otherwise, I’m just not sure how much it matters day-to-day. At least not yet. And certainly not enough for the ridiculous repetition in the keynote.

By far the most interesting element of the iPhone 12 Pro is the new design. Which in some ways is the old design of the iPhone 4/5-era device, of course. It’s nice. I don’t feel super strongly that it’s better or worse than the iPhone 11 design. I like it in the iPhone 12 Pro ‘Regular’ size because it’s nice to grip the flat sides (which is something I don’t love about the same design on the iPad Pro, for example). Unlike the iPhone 4/5, those sides are now insanely glossy. Like Christmas ornaments.

The device also feels insanely light. Now, this may just be because I “downgraded” from a Max size to a Regular one, but I don’t know. It feels almost hollow when you’re gripping it on the sides. That’s not bad or good. It’s just weird.

I also got one of the new MagSafe Silicone Cases. Kumquat color, which is fancy orange. I typically like leather cases more than the silicone ones, but this is pretty nice with the flat sides. It feels less noticable. At the same time, the case seems to transform the device from a hard one into a soft one, if that makes any sense. (As with the iPhone 4/5, this industrial design feels more… industrial. Not a bad thing, just different.)

One small annoyance is that the lip of the case now extends all the way around the phone. This makes it harder to swipe-up as you could with previous iPhones in cases, because they used to have a small cut out at the bottom. This also makes it harder to tell which direction the iPhone is facing when it’s in your pocket. So I often pull it out upside down. Anyway, it’s a small thing, but it’s a daily annoyance that adds up.

The case itself reminds me a bit of the iPhone 4-era bumpers, but with a back, of course. Thanks to the MagSafe component, it’s also more elegant to slip on and off than previous cases which required more of a peeling off process.

I’ve now written three paragraphs about the case of the iPhone 12 which tells you how little I have to say about the device itself. It’s great in the ways the iPhone has long been great. Ever so slightly better in some ways, more than slightly better in others. It has a LiDAR sensor — which I have yet to use. Or maybe I have for some photos. I appreciate the new/old design — especially with apps in night mode with black backgrounds where it feels almost as if the content you’re consuming might slip off the edge of an infinity pool.

One More… Aside

For the first time, I opted to do a local data transfer to set up this iPhone. Previously, I’ve either started from scratch with a clean install or done a restore via iCloud. This process was… fine, it took a while and the devices needed to be near each other the whole time. But I thought it would be worth it if I got a 1-to-1 clone of my old iPhone. That’s not the case, sadly.

It’s close but Apple shoves back in apps like GarageBand and iMovie even if you’ve previously deleted them. Worse, all your TestFlight apps don’t make the journey over. I get it, but also don’t. All I want is a way to make an exact clone of my iPhone when I get a new one. Not some hybrid clone/new device. We’re not there yet.

But the real annoyance came by way of a notification that I needed to upgrade my iCloud storage. Apparently, when the new iPhone was born from the copy of the old one, it started backing up all of my photos anew. This meant tens of gigabytes of data on top of the tens of gigabytes of the same data I already had backed up via iCloud Photos. Once I realized what the issue was, I was able to delete the massive backup file of the new iPhone and it made a new, substantially smaller one, but this was a weird hiccup in the process.

Nearly 10 years later, Apple is still figuring out how to get iCloud to true “it just works” status, apparently.


The Goldilocks iPhone 12 was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Mandalorian Is the Way of Star Wars


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

The Mandalorian manages to out-Star Wars, Star Wars…

We’re three episodes into the second season of The Mandalorian and it’s great. Really good. The first season was fantastic, and the second is shaping up to be better. In fact, it’s so good that something lingers at the back of my head. Something a bit terrifying: I think The Mandalorian is better at Star Wars than the most recent Star Wars movies are.

I think such a statement will be both controversial to some and entirely not controversial to others. To my eye and taste, The Mandalorian is just a better distillation of what Star Wars is meant to be versus the most recent trilogy (and, of course, the prequel trilogy before that). Said another way: The Mandalorian feels like the true successor to the original Star Wars trilogy.

The prequels were a mess. The sequels were a whiplash-inducing affair of varying quality. I liked them, but I didn’t love them. Certainly not in the way that I loved the original Star Wars trilogy. And now not even in a way that I love The Mandalorian.

I do think part of it is the glitz and glam of the prequels and sequels. CGI aside, they just feel like big Hollywood spectacles because they were meant to be big Hollywood spectacles. The Mandalorian has plenty of CGI (very, very good, both by regular and “television” standards), but it also seemingly has more practical effects as well. It just looks more like the original trilogy in ways big and small.

It also, seemingly, has more heart than the sequels do (and certainly the prequels, which were Anakin Skywalker-levels devoid of emotion). Part of this may be a function of the television/streaming style of storytelling — connections built over many hours — but it sure feels like it goes deeper than that. We care about these characters and story lines because the people crafting such narratives care about them.

Anyway, just a thought I’ve been having while watching The Mandalorian these past few weeks. I think the show outshines the movies because it’s actually better than the prequels and sequels. And more in the vein of the original Star Wars. I hope they can keep that up.


Mandalorian Is the Way of Star Wars was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

You Know Nothing, Jon Snow


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

And certainly most VCs don’t either — myself included…

From time to time I’ll get asked why I don’t write more about the topic of investing. I’ve long held that I only wanted to write about a topic that I felt comfortable enough in my knowledge to write about. And I was still in learning mode for VC. But as I approach a decade in, that mentality has sort of shifted. If I’m being honest, it’s more that I find that type of content vapid.

And it’s actually worse than that. It’s often meaningless or actually detrimental. Sure, if you’ve been an investor long enough, you’ll have certain earned wisdom on deal structures and the like. And there’s undoubtedly pattern recognition for certain types of things. But in technology in particular, things change and shift so quickly that a lot of knowledge is much less useful than you might think. And again, it can often be counter-productive to share.

Talking to entrepreneurs, I find it best to acknowledge that you’re perhaps on a journey together and you have no idea how it’s going to play out. So much of it is luck, but even more of it is timing. Hard work is a prerequisite, of course. But mainly to ensure that your company is in the right position to capitalize on the luck of timing, should it come.

I prefer to be a sounding board. To talk about new ideas, even if tangential to the business at hand. To pull stuff out by way of provoking thought.

And that’s why I write about seemingly random things — okay, and Apple — more often than I write about VC or investing or the like. I write to clarify my own thoughts and to stimulate my own brain. It’s not some guidebook from someone who has it all figured out. Those types of posts read ridiculous because they are ridiculous. There are exceptions, of course.¹ But mainly in that they spur thought and tangents. They’re never going to be some letter of some law.²

That’s because the questions are always changing, so how can the answers be the same? It’s best to admit you know this side of nothing and instead talk through how you can actually get smart on a topic. And you’re probably not going to write a blog post about that because it would be incredibly boring to almost everyone who would read it. And more to the point, it would probably be out of date by the time it was published.

¹And if you’re reading this, yours is definitely the exception!

² Nevermind the fact that anyone with such profound insight is unlikely to be sharing it in a blog post…


You Know Nothing, Jon Snow was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

You Know Nothing, Jon Snow


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

And certainly most VCs don’t either — myself included…

From time to time I’ll get asked why I don’t write more about the topic of investing. I’ve long held that I only wanted to write about a topic that I felt comfortable enough in my knowledge to write about. And I was still in learning mode for VC. But as I approach a decade in, that mentality has sort of shifted. If I’m being honest, it’s more that I find that type of content vapid.

And it’s actually worse than that. It’s often meaningless or actually detrimental. Sure, if you’ve been an investor long enough, you’ll have certain earned wisdom on deal structures and the like. And there’s undoubtedly pattern recognition for certain types of things. But in technology in particular, things change and shift so quickly that a lot of knowledge is much less useful than you might think. And again, it can often be counter-productive to share.

Talking to entrepreneurs, I find it best to acknowledge that you’re perhaps on a journey together and you have no idea how it’s going to play out. So much of it is luck, but even more of it is timing. Hard work is a prerequisite, of course. But mainly to ensure that your company is in the right position to capitalize on the luck of timing, should it come.

I prefer to be a sounding board. To talk about new ideas, even if tangential to the business at hand. To pull stuff out by way of provoking thought.

And that’s why I write about seemingly random things — okay, and Apple — more often than I write about VC or investing or the like. I write to clarify my own thoughts and to stimulate my own brain. It’s not some guidebook from someone who has it all figured out. Those types of posts read ridiculous because they are ridiculous. There are exceptions, of course.¹ But mainly in that they spur thought and tangents. They’re never going to be some letter of some law.²

That’s because the questions are always changing, so how can the answers be the same? It’s best to admit you know this side of nothing and instead talk through how you can actually get smart on a topic. And you’re probably not going to write a blog post about that because it would be incredibly boring to almost everyone who would read it. And more to the point, it would probably be out of date by the time it was published.

¹And if you’re reading this, yours is definitely the exception!

² Nevermind the fact that anyone with such profound insight is unlikely to be sharing it in a blog post…


You Know Nothing, Jon Snow was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Dial ‘M1’ for Murder


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

Apple just killed Intel, and Windows laptops are on life support

Let’s start at the end. I’m sorry if I’m spoiling this for anyone, but it has been hours at this point and Twitter has probably spoiled it a thousand times for you already. John Hodgman made a triumphant return as ‘PC’ at the end of Apple’s event today. Defiant in a way not seen since Donald Trump lost the election, PC wondered what the big deal was?

He’s right, in a way. This wasn’t a big deal, it was a massive deal. If Apple can live up to the performance claims they made on stage today about their new ‘M1’ chip, it will fundamentally alter the laptop landscape. And it portends a shift in the entire personal computer game.

Apple’s third event in the past two months was concise — 45 minutes! — and direct. There was no opening act, it was simply all about the Mac. And the Mac proved worthy of that. Afterwards, I did something I haven’t done in quite some time: bought one of the new products immediately.

At the same time, it was made clear that the M1 was just a start in terms of what Apple has in store for their silicon plans for the Mac. That thought should send shudders down spines. That’s how good just this “first step” sounded today. Granted, a step without X or Y axis on performance charts.

John Ternus, Apple’s VP of Hardware Engineering, the star of today’s show, noted that a “family of chips” were coming, and reiterated that this was just the first step in a transition that is going to take a couple of years. That implies either a different variant of the M1 or a different class of chip all together still yet to come…

I had previously speculated about how Apple might handle their Mac-bound silicon, perhaps making an ‘A14T’ for the Macs.¹ Call it what you want, it sure sounds like it’s based on the A14 5nm architecture of the latest iPhones and iPads. The more interesting question I pondered is if that first iteration would be bound for MacBook Pros and iMacs,² while another new chip would be for the desktop-class ‘Pro’ Mac models.

This is still very possible! But my thinking got thrown in a bit of a loop today when Apple announced the M1 was bound for not only the MacBook Pro, but the MacBook Air and Mac mini as well.³ So that’s Apple’s best-selling and cheapest portable, their best-selling professional portable, and their entry-level desktop machine. It’s a seemingly weird combination. Especially since they kicked off the M1 unveiling talking about how the chip was all about power efficiency and power-per-watt performance. That makes sense for the MacBook Air. It maybe makes sense for the MacBook Pro if these chips really are that fast. It seemingly makes less sense for the Mac mini, which, of course, is a plugged in device. But perhaps it has to do more with development for these new Macs and less for perfecting that particular system.

The M1 MacBook Pro makes even more sense if it’s just the new “entry-level” MBP. That is, if Apple plans another, more powerful MacBook Pro model which will use a theoretical new chip that say, the iMac or even iMac Pro uses. Or maybe the Mac Pro?!

Matthew Panzarino quipped on Twitter that this M1 MacBook Pro is the new MacBook. And that may actually be correct. When we think about the MacBook now, we think of my beloved super-svelte device which was recently laid to rest. But that wasn’t always the case. For much of its life, the MacBook was actually in between the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro in terms of size, specs, and price. What if this is a move back in the direction? Certainly it makes more sense from a branding perspective! The Air should be the thinnest and certainly the lightest MacBook. Duh.

I’m still holding out hope for a return to the 12-inch form factor, but maybe that comes down the road as a MacBook ‘mini’ or ‘nano’ or some such. One can only dream at this point. But these chip capabilities certainly make it possible if not probable to go smaller than the 13-inch Air. Especially since the Air is so close in size and weight to the 13-inch Pro!

One other oddity which was only revealed when the pre-orders went live, Apple is differentiating SKUs based on not CPU cores, but GPU cores for the Air. And then on storage for the Pro and mini. One thing you’ll see absolutely no mention of: clock speed. While that has long been a part of small typeface for Apple’s Intel Macs, this is a new world. Much like the iPhone and iPad, Apple does not want you, the consumer, to care about such things. That’s undoubtedly because they will cycle up or down those speeds based on power needs, which is true of Intel chips too. Apple is just opting not to give a “max” speed, and they’re seemingly not varying that “max” speed based on device. Though I suspect they will with my theoretical more “Pro” machines above.

Have I mentioned the MacBook Air has no fan. Sorry, that undersells it. No fucking fan! It will be as silent as an iPhone and as cool as an iPad, well, presumably. Regardless, it’s an awesome milestone for a laptop.⁴

And all that leads to my main event: 15–18 hours of battery life on the Air. And 17–20 hours on the Pro. 20 hours! Apple is usually pretty honest about such assessments, so if we can trust them here, this is incredible. And while the ability to fully control the stack and not have to put up with Intel’s always-delayed roadmap may be the main reasons to do their own silicon, this has to be the top side effect.

Again, we have to push the believe button with what Apple is selling right now. But we won’t for long as these machines are just days away. And if the claims hold up, it’s hard to see how the Windows-based ecosystem competes. Sure, the giant gaming rigs with discreet graphics aren’t scared. But the Windows-based laptops should be. How do you compete with this? As is always the case with Apple, it’s not just the hardware, it’s the software custom tailored to run on it. The only way to compete is to do the same thing. Does that mean Microsoft will need to start making their own chips for Surface machines? Well that seems a lot more likely than Intel getting into software…

But unless there have been skunkworks projects deep inside Redmond that are much farther along than the complete and utter lack of leaks would indicate, we’re years away from that being a reality. Maybe longer.

So yeah, the makers of PC laptops should be terrified by all of this. It’s like when Steve Jobs took the original MacBook Air out of the manilla envelope — except the inverse. The form factor there glossed over what was a fairly sub-par machine. Here, the form factor is dated because everyone copied it. But the performance is the showstopper.⁵ And it’s going to be a lot harder to copy. Microsoft should be rushing to acquire a chip maker. And Intel should be… hoping Microsoft calls.

¹ And wondering if Apple might use the iPad Pro chips as the MacBook Air chips. This was wrong, of course!

² No mention of iMacs today, of course.

³ Yes, it’s still lowercase ‘mini’ while ‘Pro’ and ‘Air’ are uppercase…

⁴ I hope they don’t need to run Chrome, snicker.

⁵ If there’s any disappointment today (beyond no 12-inch machine as mentioned above), it’s that Apple still hasn’t figured out a way back to the glowing Apple logos for the MacBook.⁶ Seemingly everyone wants this, including Apple, as they continue to use those machines — which they no longer make — in sizzle reels. Even today! I know, I know, they’d have to make the lids bulkier again. But if that also mean being able to squeeze something better than a 720p camera into the lid… I think a lot of us would be all-in!

⁶ Also no 5G/LTE models of the MacBook today. This isn’t a huge surprise, but it’s another thing that a lot of us want. Maybe my mythical MacBook mini leads the way there too…


Dial ‘M1’ for Murder was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Dial ‘M1’ for Murder


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

Apple just killed Intel, and Windows laptops are on life support

Let’s start at the end. I’m sorry if I’m spoiling this for anyone, but it has been hours at this point and Twitter has probably spoiled it a thousand times for you already. John Hodgman made a triumphant return as ‘PC’ at the end of Apple’s event today. Defiant in a way not seen since Donald Trump lost the election, PC wondered what the big deal was?

He’s right, in a way. This wasn’t a big deal, it was a massive deal. If Apple can live up to the performance claims they made on stage today about their new ‘M1’ chip, it will fundamentally alter the laptop landscape. And it portends a shift in the entire personal computer game.

Apple’s third event in the past two months was concise — 45 minutes! — and direct. There was no opening act, it was simply all about the Mac. And the Mac proved worthy of that. Afterwards, I did something I haven’t done in quite some time: bought one of the new products immediately.

At the same time, it was made clear that the M1 was just a start in terms of what Apple has in store for their silicon plans for the Mac. That thought should send shudders down spines. That’s how good just this “first step” sounded today. Granted, a step without an X or Y axis on performance charts.

John Ternus, Apple’s VP of Hardware Engineering, the star of today’s show, noted that a “family of chips” were coming, and reiterated that this was just the first step in a transition that is going to take a couple of years. That implies either a different variant of the M1 or a different class of chip all together still yet to come…

I had previously speculated about how Apple might handle their Mac-bound silicon, perhaps making an ‘A14T’ for the Macs.¹ Call it what you want, it sure sounds like it’s based on the A14 5nm architecture of the latest iPhones and iPads. The more interesting question I pondered is if that first iteration would be bound for MacBook Pros and iMacs,² while another new chip would be for the desktop-class ‘Pro’ Mac models.

This is still very possible! But my thinking got thrown in a bit of a loop today when Apple announced the M1 was bound for not only the MacBook Pro, but the MacBook Air and Mac mini as well.³ So that’s Apple’s best-selling and cheapest portable, their best-selling professional portable, and their entry-level desktop machine. It’s a seemingly weird combination. Especially since they kicked off the M1 unveiling talking about how the chip was all about power efficiency and power-per-watt performance. That makes sense for the MacBook Air. It maybe makes sense for the MacBook Pro if these chips really are that fast. It seemingly makes less sense for the Mac mini, which, of course, is a plugged in device. But perhaps it has to do more with development for these new Macs and less for perfecting that particular system.

The M1 MacBook Pro makes even more sense if it’s just the new “entry-level” MBP. That is, if Apple plans another, more powerful MacBook Pro model which will use a theoretical new chip that say, the iMac or even iMac Pro uses. Or maybe the Mac Pro?!

Matthew Panzarino quipped on Twitter that this M1 MacBook Pro is the new MacBook. And that may actually be correct. When we think about the MacBook now, we think of my beloved super-svelte device which was recently laid to rest. But that wasn’t always the case. For much of its life, the MacBook was actually in between the MacBook Air and the MacBook Pro in terms of size, specs, and price. What if this is a move back in that direction? Certainly it makes more sense from a branding perspective! The Air should be the thinnest and certainly the lightest MacBook. Duh.

I’m still holding out hope for a return to the 12-inch form factor, but maybe that comes down the road as a MacBook ‘mini’ or ‘nano’ or some such. One can only dream at this point. But these chip capabilities certainly make it possible if not probable to go smaller than the 13-inch Air. Especially since the Air is so close in size and weight to the 13-inch Pro!

One other oddity which was only revealed when the pre-orders went live, Apple is differentiating SKUs based on not CPU cores, but GPU cores for the Air. And then on storage for the Pro and mini. One thing you’ll see absolutely no mention of: clock speed. While that has long been a part of small typeface for Apple’s Intel Macs, this is a new world. Much like the iPhone and iPad, Apple does not want you, the consumer, to care about such things. That’s undoubtedly because they will cycle up or down those speeds based on power needs, which is true of Intel chips too. Apple is just opting not to give a “max” speed, and they’re seemingly not varying that “max” speed based on device. Though I suspect they will with my theoretical more “Pro” machines above.

Have I mentioned the MacBook Air has no fan. Sorry, that undersells it. No fucking fan!⁴ It will be as silent as an iPhone and as cool as an iPad, well, presumably. Regardless, it’s an awesome milestone for a laptop (again, apparently) this powerful.⁵

And all that leads to my main event: 15–18 hours of battery life on the Air. And 17–20 hours on the Pro. 20 hours! Apple is usually pretty honest about such assessments, so if we can trust them here, this is incredible. And while the ability to fully control the stack and not have to put up with Intel’s always-delayed roadmap may be the main reasons to do their own silicon, this has to be the top side effect.

Again, we have to push the believe button with what Apple is selling right now. But we won’t for long as these machines are just days away. And if the claims hold up, it’s hard to see how the Windows-based ecosystem competes. Sure, the giant gaming rigs with discreet graphics aren’t scared. But the Windows-based laptops should be. How do you compete with this? As is always the case with Apple, it’s not just the hardware, it’s the software custom tailored to run on it. The only way to compete is to do the same thing. Does that mean Microsoft will need to start making their own chips for Surface machines? Well that seems a lot more likely than Intel getting into software…

But unless there have been skunkworks projects deep inside Redmond that are much farther along than the complete and utter lack of leaks would indicate, we’re years away from that being a reality. Maybe longer.

So yeah, the makers of PC laptops should be terrified by all of this. It’s like when Steve Jobs took the original MacBook Air out of the manilla envelope — except the inverse. The form factor there glossed over what was a fairly sub-par machine. Here, the form factor is dated because everyone copied it. But the performance is the showstopper.⁶ And it’s going to be a lot harder to copy. Microsoft should be rushing to acquire a chip maker. And Intel should be… hoping Microsoft calls.

¹ And wondering if Apple might use the iPad Pro chips as the MacBook Air chips. This was wrong, of course!

² No mention of iMacs today, of course.

³ Yes, it’s still lowercase ‘mini’ while ‘Pro’ and ‘Air’ are uppercase…

⁴ While my beloved MacBook also had a fan-less design that’s part of the reason why it was soooooo slow. It ran already weak Intel chips that were clearly underpowered so as not to overheat. That does not seem to be the case here — we’ll see soon enough!

⁵ I hope they don’t need to run Chrome, snicker.

⁶ If there’s any disappointment today (beyond no 12-inch machine as mentioned above), it’s that Apple still hasn’t figured out a way back to the glowing Apple logos for the MacBook.⁷ Seemingly everyone wants this, including Apple, as they continue to use those machines — which they no longer make — in sizzle reels. Even today! I know, I know, they’d have to make the lids bulkier again. But if that also meant being able to squeeze something better than a 720p camera into the lid… I think a lot of us would be all-in!

⁷ Also no 5G/LTE models of the MacBook today. This isn’t a huge surprise, but it’s another thing that a lot of us want. Maybe my mythical MacBook mini leads the way there too…


Dial ‘M1’ for Murder was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

America, Interrupted


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

The end of Donald Trump. For now…

Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

Yesterday was a fantastic day. A needed one. I fully believed in this outcome and even when things were looking dire to many, with flashbacks to 2016 illuminating left and right, I trusted the process and the process prevailed. After a year more brutal than any in memory, let’s celebrate this day and hope this is a turning point.

But I also want to be realistic and honest. And I think we all should in order to remain vigilant. Joe Biden got more votes than anyone in the history of our democracy — 75 million and counting — which is amazing. At the same time Donald Trump got the second most votes of anyone in the history of our democracy in losing. And I fear that if it were any other candidate other than Biden, who Trump-hating Republicans were comfortable voting for, Trump would have won again.

So if there’s a victory the Democrats should celebrate today, it’s that they made the right choice in picking a candidate. Everyone else who was in the running late would have been disastrous. And so let’s be very clear and again, honest: the Democrats didn’t win this election, Donald Trump lost it. The Democrats simply allowed him to do so.

70 million people voted for Trump. 70 million. 70 million. Say it a thousand more times. After what we’ve all been through the past four years, and especially the past year of complete and utter incompetence and buffoonery. Four years ago, I wondered if this country was going to have to learn a lesson the hard way in the election of Trump. And now you could argue that we’ve learned a few lessons in such a manner, but certainly COVID is top of mind as the key hard lesson, with so many lives lost.¹ And yet, looking at these results, it seems as if no lesson was learned at all.

The hope today is that the past four years of Trump has been a blip on the radar of our democracy. An interruption, a distraction, and now we’re back on track. The fear is that this election is the blip. And I don’t mean that in the sense that Republicans will win again — I sincerely hope that at some point in my life they put forward a candidate I’m excited about voting for — it’s that Trump or his literal ilk will be back. You can take it to the bank that they will try in 2024, the question is where America will be at that point.

And so I’d say to the Democrats celebrating this win today, look inward. Result at the top of the ticket aside, it’s clearly time to reboot the party, much as it is on the Republican side. We all need to make the most of these next four years. To make America great again, as it were.

I am so, so, so happy that my young daughter no longer has to grow up in a world where a morally corrupt con man is President of the United States. That’s what I keep thinking about today. And why I’m so thrilled with this outcome. I take solace in the fact that she won’t remember the shitshow that was the first couple years of her life. Now we need to make sure that the country going forward is worthy of her memories.

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

¹ And while you certainly can’t blame Trump for COVID-19 itself, nor can you for the majority of lives lost, I believe you absolutely can blame him for some subset of lives lost, as America has performed badly below and beyond comparable countries. Is that number in the thousands? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? More? It’s impossible to know. But even if it’s just one. If just one life could have been saved if Trump and his administration had taken the virus and the response to it seriously, that would have been worth having a different president in office. Just to save one life. Obviously. This isn’t a statistic, it’s a life. And it was lost because Trump was incompetent. Or just didn’t give a shit. Or both. Or whatever. Good riddance.


America, Interrupted was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

America, Interrupted


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

The end of Donald Trump. For now…

Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

Yesterday was a fantastic day. A needed one. I fully believed in this outcome and even when things were looking dire to many, with flashbacks to 2016 illuminating left and right, I trusted the process and the process prevailed. After a year more brutal than any in memory, let’s celebrate this day and hope this is a turning point.

But I also want to be realistic and honest. And I think we all should in order to remain vigilant. Joe Biden got more votes than anyone in the history of our democracy — 75 million and counting — which is amazing. At the same time Donald Trump got the second most votes of anyone in the history of our democracy in losing. And I fear that if it were any other candidate other than Biden, who Trump-hating Republicans were comfortable voting for, Trump would have won again.

So if there’s a victory the Democrats should celebrate today, it’s that they made the right choice in picking a candidate. Everyone else who was in the running late would have been disastrous. And so let’s be very clear and again, honest: the Democrats didn’t win this election, Donald Trump lost it. The Democrats simply allowed him to do so.

70 million people voted for Trump. 70 million. 70 million. Say it a thousand more times. After what we’ve all been through the past four years, and especially the past year of complete and utter incompetence and buffoonery. Four years ago, I wondered if this country was going to have to learn a lesson the hard way in the election of Trump. And now you could argue that we’ve learned a few lessons in such a manner, but certainly COVID is top of mind as the key hard lesson, with so many lives lost.¹ And yet, looking at these results, it seems as if no lesson was learned at all.

The hope today is that the past four years of Trump has been a blip on the radar of our democracy. An interruption, a distraction, and now we’re back on track. The fear is that this election is the blip. And I don’t mean that in the sense that Republicans will win again — I sincerely hope that at some point in my life they put forward a candidate I’m excited about voting for — it’s that Trump or his literal ilk will be back. You can take it to the bank that they will try in 2024, the question is where America will be at that point.

And so I’d say to the Democrats celebrating this win today, look inward. Result at the top of the ticket aside, it’s clearly time to reboot the party, much as it is on the Republican side. We all need to make the most of these next four years. To make America great again, as it were.

I am so, so, so happy that my young daughter no longer has to grow up in a world where a morally corrupt con man is President of the United States. That’s what I keep thinking about today. And why I’m so thrilled with this outcome. I take solace in the fact that she won’t remember the shitshow that was the first couple years of her life. Now we need to make sure that the country going forward is worthy of her memories.

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

¹ And while you certainly can’t blame Trump for COVID-19 itself, nor can you for the majority of lives lost, I believe you absolutely can blame him for some subset of lives lost, as America has performed badly below and beyond comparable countries. Is that number in the thousands? Tens of thousands? Hundreds of thousands? More? It’s impossible to know. But even if it’s just one. If just one life could have been saved if Trump and his administration had taken the virus and the response to it seriously, that would have been worth having a different president in office. Just to save one life. Obviously. This isn’t a statistic, it’s a life. And it was lost because Trump was incompetent. Or just didn’t give a shit. Or both. Or whatever. Good riddance.


America, Interrupted was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

A November to Remember


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

Some thoughts on turning 39…

Photo by Tarik Haiga on Unsplash

As is the case with all of us who were born in early November, sometimes my birthday falls on Election Day.¹ I’m very glad it’s not on Election Day this year, but rather the day before, so I can reflect with somewhat of a clear mind. Well, as clear of a mind as anyone could possibly have in the utter chaos soup that has been 2020.

Today, I’m 39 years old. One day before an election. One year before 40.

Reading over my thoughts from a year ago now read like a totally different world. I used the word “quiet” and “still” over and over again. Can you imagine? For this past year, I would choose the exact opposite words. I referenced how we were supposed to be living in Blade Runner — and then the world quite literally started looking like Blade Runner.

In many ways, this past year has seemed a bit like a nightmare from which we can’t awaken. Certainly since COVID lockdowns started in March. And yet at the same time, it feels like it’s hard to complain too much since my family is healthy and relatively happy on a day-to-day basis. There are so many people who have it far, far worse. So I find myself thankful that this year has only been a nut kick and not a gunshot wound.

I don’t necessarily believe in karma, but I do believe in some level of equilibrium. And it just feels like the tide has to turn at some point on all of this. That the last year of my 30s can be remembered as a year where we stared down the endless abyss but were able to turn things back around. That we’ll all benefit from knowing what bad times look like and do what we can to make sure we never get back here.

It sure feels like that starts tomorrow.²

¹ It actually did in 1999, when I turned 18 years old. So I could vote the very day I was legally allowed to. Though it was the year before a crazy election. One which four years ago put to shame. And hopefully tomorrow does not.

² If you haven’t already, vote!


A November to Remember was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

A November to Remember


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

Some thoughts on turning 39…

Photo by Tarik Haiga on Unsplash

As is the case with all of us who were born in early November, sometimes my birthday falls on Election Day.¹ I’m very glad it’s not on Election Day this year, but rather the day before, so I can reflect with somewhat of a clear mind. Well, as clear of a mind as anyone could possibly have in the utter chaos soup that has been 2020.

Today, I’m 39 years old. One day before an election. One year before 40.

Reading over my thoughts from a year ago now read like a totally different world. I used the word “quiet” and “still” over and over again. Can you imagine? For this past year, I would choose the exact opposite words. I referenced how we were supposed to be living in Blade Runner — and then the world quite literally started looking like Blade Runner.

In many ways, this past year has seemed a bit like a nightmare from which we can’t awaken. Certainly since COVID lockdowns started in March. And yet at the same time, it feels like it’s hard to complain too much since my family is healthy and relatively happy on a day-to-day basis. There are so many people who have it far, far worse. So I find myself thankful that this year has only been a nut kick and not a gunshot wound.

I don’t necessarily believe in karma, but I do believe in some level of equilibrium. And it just feels like the tide has to turn at some point on all of this. That the last year of my 30s can be remembered as a year where we stared down the endless abyss but were able to turn things back around. That we’ll all benefit from knowing what bad times look like and do what we can to make sure we never get back here.

It sure feels like that starts tomorrow.²

¹ It actually did in 1999, when I turned 18 years old. So I could vote the very day I was legally allowed to. Though it was the year before a crazy election. One which four years ago put to shame. And hopefully tomorrow does not.

² If you haven’t already, vote!


A November to Remember was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Netflix’s Halloween Nightmare


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

Photo by Maxime Roedel on Unsplash

Happy Halloween. If your family is anything like my family, or if you’re like I was when I was 30 years old, or like I was when I was 20 years old, or like I was when I was a 10 years old kid, you probably want to watch a scary/spooky/horror movie tonight. You know, the type of movies people watch on Halloween. Given that it’s 2020, that likely means firing up Netflix for most people.

Except that if you were to fire up that service tonight that you would see… nothing. Well, to be clear, you would see a lot. But you would see nothing highlighted for Halloween viewing. I know this because I just tried it. And I couldn’t believe it.

That’s right, despite it being Halloween, the prime viewing night for scary/spooky/horror content, the brand that now owns content in your living room highlights exactly none of it.

I especially couldn’t believe this because other services do offer up such content. HBO Max has a nice section for Halloween-style content, for example.¹ As does Amazon. Apple, of all companies, is actually fantastic at this.

Load up iTunes — iTunes! — and you’ll see sections for this. “Halloween Classics” “Halloween Hits” “Contemporary Horror” “Zombies” “Monsters” “Vampires” “Supernatural Stories” “Haunted Houses” “Halloween Bundles” “More Discounted Halloween Bundles” “Family Friendly Frights” “More Family Friendly Frights” This area literally highlights all of these right now. And that doesn’t include their main carousel which highlights many such films. Nor does it include the huge features for the latest Craft movie, which is skipping theaters. Nor does it include the massive promotion for the Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin special, now (divisively) a part of Apple TV. Nor does it include the Top Charts which obviously feature many similar movies — because, again, that’s what people want to watch right now!

iTunes — again, iTunes! — gets this exactly right. Netflix totally whiffs.

And it’s not just this insanely obvious low-hanging fruit. As everyone will be well aware, the great Sean Connery passed away today.² When such things happen, Apple is always very quick to pull in the content to showcase the careers of such people. Netflix? Again, nada.

Now, to be fair, it doesn’t look like Netflix actually has a ton of Sean Connery content. A quick manual search indicates it’s perhaps just Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and A Bridge Too Far if that’s possible?! But you could easily see a world in which Netflix could dynamically pull in more content for such times. Or, if that’s not possible, link out to it on other services (maybe even as a new revenue-generating mechanism?).

Anyway, I’m just honestly shocked that Netflix — such an ingenious and forward-thinking company — drops the ball so badly in both regards.

¹ I wrote this as ‘HBO Now’ at first, which is sort of wild that I still can’t remember what this service is actually called NOW.

² My thoughts on this topic are worthy of a separate post. Still processing. For now, here’s John Gruber on the matter.


Netflix’s Halloween Nightmare was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Netflix’s Halloween Nightmare


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

Is the lack of Halloween content surfaced a trick or a treat?

Photo by Maxime Roedel on Unsplash

Happy Halloween. If your family is anything like my family, or if you’re like I was when I was 30 years old, or like I was when I was 20 years old, or like I was when I was a 10 year old kid, you probably want to watch a scary/spooky/horror movie tonight. You know, the type of movies people watch on Halloween. Given that it’s 2020, that likely means firing up Netflix for most people.

Except that if you were to fire up that service tonight you would see… nothing. Well, to be clear, you would see a lot. But you would see nothing highlighted for your Halloween viewing pleasure. I know this because I just tried it. And I couldn’t believe it.

That’s right, despite it being Halloween, the prime viewing night for scary/spooky/horror content, the brand that now all-but owns content viewing in your living room highlights exactly none of it.

I especially couldn’t believe this because other services do offer up such content. HBO Max has a nice section for Halloween-style content, for example.¹ As does Amazon. Apple, of all companies, is actually fantastic for this use case (see below).

Load up the iTunes Store — iTunes! — and you’ll see sections for this. “Halloween Classics” “Halloween Hits” “Contemporary Horror” “Zombies” “Monsters” “Vampires” “Supernatural Stories” “Haunted Houses” “Halloween Bundles” “More Discounted Halloween Bundles” “Family Friendly Frights” “More Family Friendly Frights” This area literally highlights all of these right now. And that doesn’t include their main carousel which highlights many such films. Nor does it include the huge features for the latest Craft movie, which is skipping theaters. Nor does it include the massive promotion for the Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin special, now (divisively) a part of Apple TV. Nor does it include the Top Charts which obviously feature many similar movies — because, again, that’s what people want to watch right now!

iTunes — again, iTunes! — seemingly gets this right. Netflix totally whiffs. The more interesting question is why this is the case. And there’s a great thread about this in the replies here on Twitter. It’s especially interesting because Netflix actually does have a Halloween section — it’s just completely buried. Because their famous algorithms have determined we don’t actually want that content. Yes, even on Halloween. Cynics will say this is in order to push their own original content. And sure, at a high level, that’s undoubtedly part of it. I just believe their algorithms are wrong in this case. At least for me!

But again, it’s more nuanced than that. Because it’s not as simple as their algorithms being wrong, it’s more like there are certain intangible things — like nostalgic feelings on Halloween — that their algorithms aren’t necessary tuned into. Twitter would indicate that I’m not alone in this feeling (though I say that with all the knowledge of how dangerous it is to rely on Twitter for any sort of “proof” of anything — from elections on down). I believe there are second-order effects here of showcasing Halloween content that may not show up on measurements directly, but shows up in people feeling great about their product and confident in it. Even if they don’t actually want to watch any of that Halloween content!

Also — and this is more of an aside, but a timely one as well — it’s not just this insanely obvious low-hanging fruit. As everyone will be well aware, the great Sean Connery passed away today.² When such things happen, Apple is always very quick to pull in the content to showcase the careers of such people. Netflix? Again, nada.

Now, to be fair, it doesn’t look like Netflix actually has a ton of Sean Connery content. A quick manual search indicates it’s perhaps just Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and A Bridge Too Far if that’s possible?! But you could easily see a world in which Netflix could dynamically pull in more content for such times. Or, if that’s not possible, link out to it on other services (maybe even as a new revenue-generating mechanism?).

Anyway, I’m just honestly shocked that Netflix — such an ingenious and forward-thinking company — drops the ball so badly in both regards.

Each of these would be fantastic Halloween costumes, btw.

¹ I wrote this as ‘HBO Now’ at first, which is sort of wild that I still can’t remember what this service is actually called NOW.

² Thoughts on this topic are probably worth a separate post. Still processing. For now, here’s John Gruber on the matter.


Netflix’s Halloween Nightmare was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Netflix’s Halloween Nightmare


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

Is the lack of Halloween content surfaced a trick or a treat?

Photo by Maxime Roedel on Unsplash

Happy Halloween. If your family is anything like my family, or if you’re like I was when I was 30 years old, or like I was when I was 20 years old, or like I was when I was a 10 year old kid, you probably want to watch a scary/spooky/horror movie tonight. You know, the type of movies people watch on Halloween. Given that it’s 2020, that likely means firing up Netflix for most people.

Except that if you were to fire up that service tonight you would see… nothing. Well, to be clear, you would see a lot. But you would see nothing highlighted for your Halloween viewing pleasure. I know this because I just tried it. And I couldn’t believe it.

That’s right, despite it being Halloween, the prime viewing night for scary/spooky/horror content, the brand that now all-but owns content viewing in your living room highlights exactly none of it.

I especially couldn’t believe this because other services do offer up such content. HBO Max has a nice section for Halloween-style content, for example.¹ As does Amazon. Apple, of all companies, is actually fantastic for this use case (see below).

Load up the iTunes Store — iTunes! — and you’ll see sections for this. “Halloween Classics” “Halloween Hits” “Contemporary Horror” “Zombies” “Monsters” “Vampires” “Supernatural Stories” “Haunted Houses” “Halloween Bundles” “More Discounted Halloween Bundles” “Family Friendly Frights” “More Family Friendly Frights” This area literally highlights all of these right now. And that doesn’t include their main carousel which highlights many such films. Nor does it include the huge features for the latest Craft movie, which is skipping theaters. Nor does it include the massive promotion for the Charlie Brown Great Pumpkin special, now (divisively) a part of Apple TV. Nor does it include the Top Charts which obviously feature many similar movies — because, again, that’s what people want to watch right now!

iTunes — again, iTunes! — seemingly gets this right. Netflix totally whiffs. The more interesting question is why this is the case. And there’s a great thread about this in the replies here on Twitter. It’s especially interesting because Netflix actually does have a Halloween section — it’s just completely buried. Because their famous algorithms have determined we don’t actually want that content. Yes, even on Halloween. Cynics will say this is in order to push their own original content. And sure, at a high level, that’s undoubtedly part of it. I just believe their algorithms are wrong in this case. At least for me!

But again, it’s more nuanced than that. Because it’s not as simple as their algorithms being wrong, it’s more like there are certain intangible things — like nostalgic feelings on Halloween — that their algorithms aren’t necessary tuned into. Twitter would indicate that I’m not alone in this feeling (though I say that with all the knowledge of how dangerous it is to rely on Twitter for any sort of “proof” of anything — from elections on down). I believe there are second-order effects here of showcasing Halloween content that may not show up on measurements directly, but shows up in people feeling great about their product and confident in it. Even if they don’t actually want to watch any of that Halloween content!

Also — and this is more of an aside, but a timely one as well — it’s not just this insanely obvious low-hanging fruit. As everyone will be well aware, the great Sean Connery passed away today.² When such things happen, Apple is always very quick to pull in the content to showcase the careers of such people. Netflix? Again, nada.

Now, to be fair, it doesn’t look like Netflix actually has a ton of Sean Connery content. A quick manual search indicates it’s perhaps just Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and A Bridge Too Far if that’s possible?! But you could easily see a world in which Netflix could dynamically pull in more content for such times. Or, if that’s not possible, link out to it on other services (maybe even as a new revenue-generating mechanism?).

Anyway, I’m just honestly shocked that Netflix — such an ingenious and forward-thinking company — drops the ball so badly in both regards.

Each of these would be fantastic Halloween costumes, btw.

¹ I wrote this as ‘HBO Now’ at first, which is sort of wild that I still can’t remember what this service is actually called NOW.

² Thoughts on this topic are probably worth a separate post. Still processing. For now, here’s John Gruber on the matter.


Netflix’s Halloween Nightmare was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Various Dips for Apple’s Chips


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

How will Apple serve up their different Mac-bound silicon?

A report (from The China Times but translated by MacRumors) seemingly starts to bring more clarity into how Apple is thinking about the silicon roadmap with regard to the Mac. Obviously to be taken with a grain of salt, but there would seemingly be some sense in the following:

  • A14: iPhones
  • A14X: MacBooks
  • A14T: Macs

It makes some amount of sense that the desktop-class Macs would get different chips than the laptop-class Macs because of the major difference in power consumption. But things get more murky at the edges.

Traditionally, the ‘X’ chips have been used for iPads Pro. But that could make some sense too, to have the MacBooks (the Air but also hopefully a new MacBook itself too) and iPads Pro use the same chip. The question is if the MacBooks Pro use that chip as well or the ‘T’ variety, just with some level of throttling for the power usage difference with a desktop Mac. And, does the ‘Pro’ line of Macs get a different chip entirely? Or is the ‘T’ meant for those with the ‘X’ going to lower-end iMacs, say? Unclear! But you could see a nice story starting to form:

  • A14: iPhones, iPads
  • A14X: iPads Pro, MacBook (& Air)
  • A14T: MacBooks Pro, Macs

Alternately, you could also see a world in which we have:

  • A14T: MacBook Pros, iMacs
  • A14?: iMac Pro, Mac Pro

But that may be overthinking it. The ‘Pro’ line of Macs could pretty easily be differentiated by other things beyond just CPU speed/capabilities.

The real question becomes how these chips are marketed. Is it really ‘A14T’ or some other name with a bit more pizazz, a la ‘macOS Big Sur’? I could see it going either way as the numbers make it easier to know which chips are newer/better whereas everyone is now confused as to which is the latest version of macOS. At the same time, ‘A14T’ sounds downright utilitarian old school. Even Intels chips have nicknames…¹

Photo by Sean McClintock on Unsplash

¹ As do these Apple chips, apparently: ‘Sicilian’, ‘Tonga’, and ‘Mt. Jade’. I think Apple has to get a bit more dialed-in if they want to use those publicly though…


Various Dips for Apple’s Chips was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Various Dips for Apple’s Chips


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

How will Apple serve up their different Mac-bound silicon?

A report (from The China Times but translated by MacRumors) seemingly starts to bring more clarity into how Apple is thinking about the silicon roadmap with regard to the Mac. Obviously to be taken with a grain of salt, but there would seemingly be some sense in the following:

  • A14: iPhones
  • A14X: MacBooks
  • A14T: Macs

It makes some amount of sense that the desktop-class Macs would get different chips than the laptop-class Macs because of the major difference in power consumption. But things get more murky at the edges.

Traditionally, the ‘X’ chips have been used for iPads Pro. But that could make some sense too, to have the MacBooks (the Air but also hopefully a new MacBook itself too) and iPads Pro use the same chip. The question is if the MacBooks Pro use that chip as well or the ‘T’ variety, just with some level of throttling for the power usage difference with a desktop Mac. And, does the ‘Pro’ line of Macs get a different chip entirely? Or is the ‘T’ meant for those with the ‘X’ going to lower-end iMacs, say? Unclear! But you could see a nice story starting to form:

  • A14: iPhones, iPads
  • A14X: iPads Pro, MacBook (& Air)
  • A14T: MacBooks Pro, Macs

Alternately, you could also see a world in which we have:

  • A14T: MacBook Pros, iMacs
  • A14?: iMac Pro, Mac Pro

But that may be overthinking it. The ‘Pro’ line of Macs could pretty easily be differentiated by other things beyond just CPU speed/capabilities.

The real question becomes how these chips are marketed. Is it really ‘A14T’ or some other name with a bit more pizazz, a la ‘macOS Big Sur’? I could see it going either way as the numbers make it easier to know which chips are newer/better whereas everyone is now confused as to which is the latest version of macOS. At the same time, ‘A14T’ sounds downright utilitarian old school. Even Intels chips have nicknames…¹

Photo by Sean McClintock on Unsplash

¹ As do these Apple chips, apparently: ‘Sicilian’, ‘Tonga’, and ‘Mt. Jade’. I think Apple has to get a bit more dialed-in if they want to use those publicly though…


Various Dips for Apple’s Chips was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

It’s Time for the Movie Studios to Step In to Save the Movie Theaters


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

And not just Disney, but the newer players too: Amazon, Apple…

Photo by Matteo Stroppaghetti on Unsplash

It currently costs more to rent a microphone to talk to your guests at an AMC theater than it does to rent out the entire theater itself. $100 vs. $99. This seems like a pretty succinct summary of the state of the movie theater business in 2020.

The money incinerator that was MoviePass seems quaint now. Not only are small theaters struggling, things are so bad that Regal, the number two chain in the US, voluntarily decided to shut back down. And AMC (the largest chain) after cutting a deal with studios like Paramount to all-but close the theatrical window for cash, now seems on the verge of insolvency.

Things are dire. Tenet couldn’t save the theaters because nothing could save the theaters. We’re still in the midst of a pandemic where being close to other human beings indoors is ill-advised at best and dangerous at worst. So a business that involves sitting in an enclosed room with each other, no matter how socially distanced, for hours at a time seems… well, it’s hard to imagine a worse business to be in. Maybe hookah lounges?

But the reality is that the movie theater business was in the process of changing before all of this. For years now, Disney has owned the box office because they figured out the formula that makes sense in the modern age. That is, create or buy up IP that people care about and release movie after movie around those properties. Tie them all together if you can. Then take those bulked up blockbusters and inject them with marketing steroids.

Rinse and repeat. Except maybe don’t even rinse.

Smaller movies can still work if the budgets are low enough. Mid-sized movies were going extinct in theaters before the pandemic hit. Netflix and the other streaming services were happy to take some of those. They’re even more happy to do so now. And some of the originals those streaming services now create aspire to go to theaters simply for prestige reasons. It’s basically marketing for awards season. Don’t tell Christopher Nolan that dirty little secret.

And yet, the pandemic will end eventually. So what’s the plan after that?

Sadly, a lot of theaters will be gone by the time the world re-awakens. Those that survive will still face an uphill battle in getting people to pay to be indoors for prolonged periods again. Disney and the like will help with a now backed up slate of movies, but there’s still going to be a real tension.

It seems inevitable at this point that there’s going to need to be a new path forward. And that path may very well be one that looks similar to a path forged at the beginning of the business. That is, studios owning theaters.

People will remember that this type of vertical integration is what led to the Paramount consent decree in the 1940s. The studios used to control not only the production of movies, but the exhibition of them and were forced to divest from the latter in the name of competition.¹ As the above 400ish words should make clear: the world is very different now.

And as a good bit of timing luck would have it, the consent decrees are being unwound. This doesn’t mean studios will be able to partake in any kind of anti-competitive behavior, but it should mean they can own theaters again. Because, again, the world is a very different place than it was in the 1940s.

One could imagine Disney or the like stepping in to save AMC. Perhaps with the notion that they would still agree to show other studios’ films as well. But perhaps they would go above and beyond to showcase their own. Or maybe Disney+ subscribers would get a deal. Etc.

And then maybe ViacomCBS (Paramount) buys Regal. Comcast (Universal) buys Cinemark. Sony buys Cineplex. Etc.

Or maybe Amazon buys one of them. Netflix has already bought/saved a couple of theaters, perhaps that continues. Again, in that case, it’s less about the theatrical business model and more about marketing. And you know who loves marketing just as much as anyone else? Apple. A decade ago, it would have seemed comical to have Apple potentially owning movie theaters. Now with all the money they’re pouring into Apple TV+ and wooing the best Hollywood talent, it may seem downright logical.

Imagine a movie theater that isn’t a public restroom, but instead is a movie palace. You know, like they were in the old days. Certainly, those still exist in places. But the AMCs of the world spent the last 20 years wiping them out and screening films in their hollowed out carcasses. It sounds crazy to hope for a world where some of the biggest companies on the planet — the Amazons, the Apples, the Disneys — step in to save movie theaters, but such is the state of the world.

¹ Yes, there was some level of nuance to this, which is why Disney was able to own and operate the El Capitan (pictured at the top).²

² Yes, I just said “the The Capitan”.


It’s Time for the Movie Studios to Step In to Save the Movie Theaters was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Twelfth Night


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

Some thoughts on Apple’s iPhone 12 event

It started with the moon. Why? I’m not entirely clear. I think it was a tie in to the new iPhone cameras being better in low-light. But who knows? The main point was clearly to — once again — showcase Apple’s headquarters. Look, we get it. It’s impressive. Maybe the most impressive headquarters in the world. Maybe even the most impressive building, period, in many ways. But we probably don’t need the 20th flyover reveal at this point. I know it helps establish a sense of place in a world currently lacking place. But it also feels a bit like these events are taking place on another planet.

Having said all that, the presentation itself, once again, was very well done. Apple is already good at these to the point where many are now asking what the strategy is if and when the world ever goes back to “normal”. My guess is that we get one or two large in-person events a year. Certainly WWDC. And probably the iPhone launches. But other events may be done with these types of videos. They look a lot better than press releases!

HomePod mini

Today, Tim Cook wasted little time jumping into it. “HomePod is a breakthrough speaker.” Well, it’s a speaker. Now, close your eyes and imagine that it’s smaller. But actually, you don’t have to close your eyes because Apple did the first of a few transitions to… something akin to a dollhouse? It was time for mini Bob Borchers — who some may remember from a different stint at Apple as the original iPhone model — to unveil the HomePod mini.

The speaker looks nice. It looks like a HomePod, but smaller and round. It looks like a new Amazon Echo, but upside down. It offers “amazing sound” but that’s pretty hard to convey over a video. And it has Siri, said as if that’s a selling point. It also offers privacy — well, more privacy than the other guys. This is a legitimate selling point, I imagine. Which is why it was mentioned several times.

Beyond that, the most interesting aspect of the HomePod mini is the U1 chip. In a feature said to be coming “later this year”, you’ll be able to walk up to a HomePod mini (unclear if this works with the larger HomePod?) with your U1 iPhone and it will use your phone’s display as a music display of sorts. A pretty cool idea.

A cooler idea would be working with Spotify but well… We’ll have to settle for Pandora and Amazon? The latter sort of a surprise, but sort of not. Echos work with Apple Music too, after all. Apple and Amazon seem to have this tit-for-tat thing going on. Apple and Google? Not so much.

We then spent more time hearing about how advanced Siri is, which would be more compelling if Siri worked well in the field. It’s not even really fun to rag on Apple for this anymore. They know what they need to do. And it seemingly has been getting better, but Siri just still doesn’t feel up to par with Alexa or Google Assistant in regular usage. Perhaps — probably? — that’s because both of those keep advancing as well.

And so Apple is trying to play to their strengths, which is smart. All their various devices and services working in concert in a way that say, Alexa can’t because Amazon doesn’t have a phone (RIP Fire Phone). Google sort of can, but it’s all less seamless. Sending a new “intercom” from your iPhone to the HomePods in your home seems nice — if you have enough HomePods in your home…

And that’s an issue because that has been the issue. Apple started out with the wrong strategy with HomePod when compared to Amazon’s Alexa strategy (and to a lesser extent, Google’s Home strategy). Apple (unsurprisingly) went high-end while Amazon went ubiquitous. Now Apple is rolling out features that focus on ubiquity in the home. Can a new, $99 HomePod get them there?

Well, it should get them closer.¹ But it still feels a bit expensive. The new Echo is also $99. But the new Echo Dot is just $49. And both are often discounted, of course. So this is a nice step in the right direction, but if Apple really wants to run this playbook, we probably need a HomePod mini dot too!

5G

From there, we zoomed further down the dollhouse into a mini empty Steve Jobs theater, where Cook was back to talk iPhone. A “new era of iPhone” — which feels like an awfully grandiose thing to say about 5G right now.

Hans Vestberg, the CEO of Verizon, came on stage with Cook in a very socially distanced manner (though no masks — might have been a nice, if symbolic gesture and a way to show off Apple’s own masks?). He spent the whole time talking up 5G “ultra wideband” with its theoretical 4 Gbps download speeds (and 200 Mbps upload speeds). This is where we got the first “ideal conditions” disclaimer. And that’s important because as everyone knows, given how nascent 5G still is, it’s very unlikely you’re going to see speeds anywhere near that with the 5G iPhone.

And again, that’s just “ultra wideband” which is the better 5G technology but not the standard one. The nation will get the okay one, while 60 cities will have the better version by the end of the year, Verizon says. Yeah, this is going to take some time. Which is why it’s fairly surprising to me that Apple decided to lead with it. This is a technology that’s largely out of their control.

iPhone 12

Still, it’s nice that all the new iPhones are getting 5G capabilities. And that starts with the iPhone 12, Apple’s new “main” device. And what’s old is new again, with the “smooth flat edges”of the iPhone 4/5 (and the newer iPad Pros) coming back. And it looks great, with some new colors to boot. The same 6.1-inch screen as the iPhone 11 but thinner and lighter.

And it also includes a new “Ceramic Shield” which is a new tech Apple made with Corning to provide “4x” the drop protection. This seems like an awfully scientific measurement for such a thing, but we’ll take any improvement.

Then we went into the cellular testing room — last seen in the iPhone 4 “Antennagate” days. I should know, I was there, quite literally. It’s a little weird to call back to that when you’re rolling out a new design which calls back to that design? I hope that’s just a coincidence!

I did enjoy all the talk about how Apple put in a lot of work to make sure the new iPhone could downgrade to LTE from 5G to save battery when 5G doesn’t make sense to use. Because again, it will likely rarely make sense to use in these early days. We also got the fun dampening of expectations that 1Gbps is how the phone will operate in “typical conditions”. And again, that’s when it’s in 5G mode. Which again, it won’t be all that often, I imagine. At least they didn’t call it the ‘iPhone 5G’, I guess!

Then it was back to the chip lab to hear about the “A14 Bionic”. Why are we keeping “Bionic” in the name? Unclear. I had hoped Bionic would evolve into some other fun name as a way to secondarily denote a new chip — a la the Big Cat names for OS X way back when. But no, the A14 is just as ‘Bionic’ as the A13 was. Even though it’s the first smartphone chip built with 5nm tech. That’s impressive! It deserved it’s own hyperbolic name, damnit!

League of Legends is coming to iPhone as a middle finger to Fortnite — er, to showcase the A14 Bionic as well as Verizon’s latency? Will the game only play on the iPhone 12? Unclear.

The cameras are better as the cameras always are. Night mode is better as it always is. I’m being glib, these do look like great upgrades.

But the return of MagSafe actually has me excited. For serious. Everything about this looks fantastic and very Apple. Cases should no longer require the feeling of ripping two intertwined objects apart and it should be more akin to the iPad Pro magnetic cases. The MagSafe Wallet is genius. Apple finally — finally — has their own power mat of sorts. And it folds! AirPower, eat your vaporware heart out.

Next it was to the roof of Apple HQ for Lisa Jackson walking amongst the solar panels. She made the case for removing the power brick and headphones from the iPhone packaging. And it was a good one. This should legitimately be good for the world. But left unsaid is that it’s also likely good for Apple’s bottom line, of course. When Jackson made a call for other companies to do a same thing, you have to wonder who Apple thinks is going to make power bricks… Oh, that’s right, Apple is! You’ll just have to buy one.

Yes, it’s a cynical take. I just believe both things can be true: this is good for the environment and good for Apple, the question is the order of importance, and more transparency around that would be welcomed.

iPhone 12 mini

Cue the James Bond music. Literally. That happened. At first, I thought we were about to get a real wildcard: what if Apple had bought the rights to bring the latest — many times postponed — No Time to Die to Apple TV+?! Or what if Apple was buying all of MGM, as has long been rumored?!!! Alas, it was just a cute way to unveil… the iPhone 12 mini.

I’ve long been a fan of this concept and it’s good to see Apple fully embrace it. This is an iPhone 12 in every way, just smaller. And slightly cheaper, to boot! A 5.4-inch screen with 476 ppi starting at $699 in a body that’s smaller than the 4.7-inch iPhone 8 seems like a thing of beauty. I’m legitimately torn between getting that and….

iPhone 12 Pro

Cut to Greg “Joz” Joswiack, the latest Apple SVP taking Phil Schiller’s place on stage as well for the big, marquee reveal: the iPhone 12 Pro. He starts off on the right foot with the “Pacific Blue” reveal. Also, that gold, wow. Is that a blatant attempt to suck up to Donald Trump?

5.8-inches has become 6.1-inches and 6.5-inches has become 6.7-inches while the footprints largely remain the same. Nice. Less nice? The ppi on the Pro screens are less than that on the 12 mini (which makes some sense — still…).

At this point, we go into the entire reason for the Pro line to exist. They’re no longer faster. The screens are no longer better (though they are brighter). They’re no longer bigger (well, the Max is). It’s now all about the camera.

As Joz put it, this is a “Pro Camera”. Deep Fusion capabilities on all four lenses — including the front-facing camera. And, as has been the case in year’s past, the Pro Max is a cut above its smaller sibling when it comes to the camera. It gets 2.5x optical zoom (and a 5x total range — versus 4x for the 12). An incredible 87% improvement in low-light, Apple claims. Better stability, etc.

Apple also gave a sneak peak at ProRAW — not a WWE event, but a new picture format. It’s like RAW, but has an Apple computational photography layer. You can edit these on your phone or with third-party software. And all of this will be available via an API.

Then it was time for talk of “Pro Video” — Apple is bringing not only HDR recording, but Dolby Vision HDR as well (which apparently hasn’t been done on any camera before). And you can edit all of this footage on the phone, in the Photos app, which should probably be renamed at some point if you’re really going to be editing Hollywood movies on here… The footage Apple showed off did look pretty incredible.

LiDAR was next, which was somewhat subdued as it already appeared on the iPad Pro a few months back. Still, using it to further boost photography on iPhone Pro models seems impressive. As will the AR work that can now be done here, undoubtedly.

Next Joz had to give some other throwaway time to talking up 5G. You can download medical images faster (though probably still not as fast as if you’re say, on WiFi?). Private 5G network support could actually be important down the road. But again, it’s early.

The sizzle reel Apple made for the iPhone 12 Pro felt different than what Apple has done in the past. Jony Ive is long gone, of course. But it just had a different tone. It was good! A nice break. It also coined the phrase I suspect we’ll be hearing more of: “The Photographer’s iPhone” — sort of like “The Philosophers Stone”.

Doubling the entry level storage to 128GB makes sense given how big these impressive photo and video files are now likely to be. Keeping the prices the same is a solid move in our pandemic world. You could see a world in which Apple tries to sell the “5G iPhone” at a premium to last year’s models. But again, come on, the jury is out on 5G for now.

The wallet, unfortunately, will also be out for a while longer if you’re interested in either the mini or Pro Max (and yes, it’s annoying that Apple capitalizes the latter but not the former). Pre-orders for those two devices — the two I’m most interested in, naturally — won’t start until two weeks after the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro ship. How quick will they slip into 2021 delivery dates? For the blue models, I suspect very quickly.

Sunset

And that was that. At 1 hour and 8 minutes, another svelte event from Apple. A few things linger in my mind.

First and foremost, I’m still fairly torn between the iPhone 12 mini and the Pro Max.² The camera is undoubtedly going to push me towards the latter, but I do long for a smaller device. Especially since I can carry the iPad mini around with me when we can leave the house again. Still, that camera system…

Second, as should not be a surprise to anyone who has read this far, I’m honestly surprised by how much Apple touted 5G. Most indications are that the networks are not quite ready for prime time and Apple is about to flood the markets with devices that will test them further, faster. All the disclaimers on the slides while talking about 5G didn’t help the cause. I get why they rolled the devices out now, but it just feels like we’re at least a year away from 5G being something Apple would want to tout. A technology they don’t control underperforming for their customers isn’t a look Apple likes…

Third, not hearing about any Macs running Apple Silicon was not a surprise. John Gruber and myself discussed this on his podcast last week. And Mark Gurman reported a few days ago that Apple would save such things for another event in November. More surprising was the lack of Apple TV. Mainly because of the whole home portion of the event, with the HomePod mini. But presumably Apple is saving the new Apple TV — and hopefully the new Apple TV remote — for the November event as well. Opening acts for the bigger show, as it were.

¹ No word on a potential bundle of HomePod minis here. You’d think Apple would want to do that — especially given the fact that they touted the stereo funtionality. Two HomePod minis for, say, $150, would be great. Instead, I imagine we’ll see two HomePod minis for $180. Or, in true Apple fashion, two HomePod minis for $200.

² I’m also slightly confused by the iPhone 12 versus the iPhone 12 Pro. For a mere $120 more (because no one should buy an iPhone with 64 GB of storage), or $8 more a month, you get quite a bit more. Namely, the better camera system. Yes, the Pro is slightly heavier, and has a couple fewer fun color options, but otherwise, I’m not sure who buys the iPhone 12 “regular”. I’m sure a lot will, but I’m not sure a lot should?


Twelfth Night was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Twelfth Night


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

Some thoughts on Apple’s iPhone 12 event

It started with the moon. Why? I’m not entirely sure. I think it was a tie in to the new iPhone cameras being better in low-light. But who knows? The main point was clearly to — once again — showcase Apple’s headquarters. Look, we get it. It’s impressive. Maybe the most impressive headquarters in the world. Maybe even the most impressive building, period, in many ways. But we probably don’t need the 20th flyover reveal at this point. I know it helps establish a sense of place in a world currently lacking place. But it also feels a bit like these events are taking place on another planet.

Having said all that, the presentation itself, once again, was very well done. Apple is already good at these to the point where many are now asking what the strategy is if and when the world ever goes back to “normal”. My guess is that we get one or two large in-person events a year. Certainly WWDC. And probably the iPhone launches. But other events may be done with these types of videos. They look a lot better than press releases!

HomePod mini

Today, Tim Cook wasted little time jumping into it. “HomePod is a breakthrough speaker.” Well, it’s a speaker. Now, close your eyes and imagine that it’s smaller. But actually, you don’t have to close your eyes because Apple did the first of a few transitions to… something akin to a dollhouse? It was time for mini Bob Borchers — who some may remember from a different stint at Apple as the original iPhone model — to unveil the HomePod mini.

The speaker looks nice. It looks like a HomePod, but smaller and round. It looks like a new Amazon Echo, but upside down. It offers “amazing sound” but that’s pretty hard to convey over a video. And it has Siri, said as if that’s a selling point. It also offers privacy — well, more privacy than the other guys. This is a legitimate selling point, I imagine. Which is why it was mentioned several times.

Beyond that, the most interesting aspect of the HomePod mini is the U1 chip. In a feature said to be coming “later this year”, you’ll be able to walk up to a HomePod mini (unclear if this works with the larger HomePod?) with your U1-enabled iPhone and it will use your phone’s display as a music display of sorts. A pretty cool idea.

A cooler idea would be working with Spotify but well… We’ll have to settle for Pandora and Amazon? The latter sort of a surprise, but sort of not. Echos work with Apple Music too, after all. Apple and Amazon seem to have this tit-for-tat thing going on. Apple and Google? Not so much.

We then spent more time hearing about how advanced Siri is, which would be more compelling if Siri worked well in the field. It’s not even really fun to rag on Apple for this anymore. They know what they need to do. And it seemingly has been getting better, but Siri just still doesn’t feel up to par with Alexa or Google Assistant in regular usage. Perhaps — probably? — that’s because both of those keep advancing as well.

And so Apple is trying to play to their strengths, which is smart. All their various devices and services working in concert in a way that say, Alexa can’t because Amazon doesn’t have a phone (RIP Fire Phone). Google sort of can, but it’s all less seamless. Sending a new “intercom” from your iPhone to the HomePods in your home seems nice — if you have enough HomePods in your home…

And that’s an issue because that has been the issue. Apple started out with the wrong strategy with HomePod when compared to Amazon’s Alexa strategy (and to a lesser extent, Google’s Home strategy). Apple (unsurprisingly) went high-end while Amazon went ubiquitous. Now Apple is rolling out features that focus on ubiquity in the home. Can a new, $99 HomePod get them there?

Well, it should get them closer.¹ But it still feels a bit expensive. The new Echo is also $99. But the new Echo Dot is just $49. And both are often discounted, of course. So this is a nice step in the right direction, but if Apple really wants to run this playbook, we probably need a HomePod mini dot too!

5G

From there, we zoomed further down the dollhouse into a mini empty Steve Jobs theater, where Cook was back to talk iPhone. A “new era of iPhone” — which feels like an awfully grandiose thing to say about 5G right now.

Hans Vestberg, the CEO of Verizon, came on stage with Cook in a very socially distanced manner (though no masks — might have been a nice, if symbolic gesture and a way to show off Apple’s own masks?). He spent the whole time talking up 5G “ultra wideband” with its theoretical 4 Gbps download speeds (and 200 Mbps upload speeds). This is where we got the first “ideal conditions” disclaimer. And that’s important because as everyone knows, given how nascent 5G still is, it’s very unlikely you’re going to see speeds anywhere near that with the 5G iPhone.

And again, that’s just “ultra wideband” which is the better 5G technology but not the standard one. The nation will get the okay one, while 60 cities will have the better version by the end of the year, Verizon says. Yeah, this is going to take some time. Which is why it’s fairly surprising to me that Apple decided to lead with it. This is a technology that’s largely out of their control.

iPhone 12

Still, it’s nice that all the new iPhones are getting 5G capabilities. And that starts with the iPhone 12, Apple’s new “main” device. And what’s old is new again, with the “smooth flat edges”of the iPhone 4/5 (and the newer iPad Pros) coming back. And it looks great, with some new colors to boot. The same 6.1-inch screen as the iPhone 11 but thinner and lighter.

And it also includes a new “Ceramic Shield” which is a new tech Apple made with Corning to provide “4x” the drop protection. This seems like an awfully scientific measurement for such a thing, but we’ll take any improvement.

Then we went into the cellular testing room — last seen in the iPhone 4 “Antennagate” days. I should know, I was there, quite literally. It’s a little weird to call back to that when you’re rolling out a new design which calls back to that design? I hope that’s just a coincidence!

I did enjoy all the talk about how Apple put in a lot of work to make sure the new iPhone could downgrade to LTE from 5G to save battery when 5G doesn’t make sense to use. Because again, it will likely rarely make sense to use in these early days. We also got the fun dampening of expectations that 1 Gbps is how the phone will operate in “typical conditions”. And again, that’s when it’s in 5G mode. Which again, it won’t be all that often, I imagine. At least they didn’t call it the ‘iPhone 5G’, I guess!

Then it was back to the chip lab to hear about the “A14 Bionic”. Why are we keeping “Bionic” in the name? Unclear. I had hoped Bionic would evolve into some other fun name as a way to secondarily denote a new chip — a la the ‘Big Cat’ names for OS X way back when. But no, the A14 is just as ‘Bionic’ as the A13 was. Even though it’s the first smartphone chip built with 5nm tech. That’s impressive! It deserved it’s own hyperbolic name, damnit!

League of Legends is coming to iPhone as a middle finger to Fortnite — er, to showcase the A14 Bionic as well as Verizon’s latency? Will the game only play on the iPhone 12? Unclear.

The cameras are better as the cameras always are. Night mode is better as it always is. I’m being glib, these do look like great upgrades.

But the return of MagSafe actually has me excited. For serious. Everything about this looks fantastic and very Apple. Cases should no longer require the feeling of ripping two intertwined objects apart and it should be more akin to the iPad Pro magnetic cases. The MagSafe Wallet is genius. Apple finally — finally — has their own power mat of sorts. And it folds! AirPower, eat your vaporware heart out.

Next it was to the roof of Apple HQ for Lisa Jackson walking amongst the solar panels. She made the case for removing the power brick and headphones from the iPhone packaging. And it was a good one. This should legitimately be good for the world. But left unsaid is that it’s also likely good for Apple’s bottom line, of course. When Jackson made a call for other companies to do the same thing, you have to wonder who Apple thinks is going to make power bricks… Oh, that’s right, Apple is! You’ll just have to buy one.

Yes, it’s a cynical take. I just believe both things can be true: this is good for the environment and good for Apple, the question is the order of importance, and more transparency around that would be welcomed.

iPhone 12 mini

Cue the James Bond music. Literally. That happened. At first, I thought we were about to get a real wildcard: what if Apple had bought the rights to bring the latest — many times postponed — No Time to Die to Apple TV+?! Or what if Apple was buying all of MGM, as has long been rumored?!!! Alas, it was just a cute way to unveil… the iPhone 12 mini.

I’ve long been a fan of this concept and it’s good to see Apple fully embrace it. This is an iPhone 12 in every way, just smaller. And slightly cheaper, to boot! A 5.4-inch screen with 476 ppi starting at $699 in a body that’s smaller than the 4.7-inch iPhone 8 seems like a thing of beauty. I’m legitimately torn between getting that and….

iPhone 12 Pro

Cut to Greg “Joz” Joswiack, the latest Apple SVP taking Phil Schiller’s place on stage as well for the big, marquee reveal: the iPhone 12 Pro. He starts off on the right foot with the “Pacific Blue” reveal. Also, that gold, wow. Is that a blatant attempt to suck up to Donald Trump?

5.8-inches has become 6.1-inches and 6.5-inches has become 6.7-inches while the footprints largely remain the same. Nice. Less nice? The ppi on the Pro screens are less than that on the 12 mini (which makes some sense — still…).

At this point, we go into the entire reason for the Pro line to exist. They’re no longer faster. The screens are no longer better (though they are brighter). They’re no longer bigger (well, the Max is). It’s now all about the camera.

As Joz put it, this is a “Pro Camera”. Deep Fusion capabilities on all four lenses — including the front-facing camera. And, as has been the case in year’s past, the Pro Max is a cut above its smaller sibling when it comes to the camera. It gets 2.5x optical zoom (and a 5x total range — versus 4x for the 12). An incredible 87% improvement in low-light, Apple claims. Better stability, etc.

Apple also gave a sneak peak at ProRAW — not a WWE event, but a new picture format. It’s like RAW, but has an Apple computational photography layer. You can edit these on your phone or with third-party software. And all of this will be available via an API.

Then it was time for talk of “Pro Video” — Apple is bringing not only HDR recording, but Dolby Vision HDR as well (which apparently hasn’t been done on any camera before). And you can edit all of this footage on the phone, in the Photos app, which should probably be renamed at some point if you’re really going to be editing Hollywood movies on here… The footage Apple showed off did look pretty incredible.

LiDAR was next, which was somewhat subdued as it already appeared on the iPad Pro a few months back. Still, using it to further boost photography on iPhone Pro models seems impressive. As will the AR work that can now be done here, undoubtedly.

Next Joz had to give some other throwaway time to talking up 5G. You can download medical images faster (though probably still not as fast as if you’re say, on WiFi?). Private 5G network support could actually be important down the road. But again, it’s early.

The sizzle reel Apple made for the iPhone 12 Pro felt different than what Apple has done in the past. Jony Ive is long gone, of course. But it just had a different tone. It was good! A nice break. It also coined the phrase I suspect we’ll be hearing more of: “The Photographer’s iPhone” — sort of like “The Philosophers Stone”.

Doubling the entry level storage to 128GB makes sense given how big these impressive photo and video files are now likely to be. Keeping the prices the same is a solid move in our pandemic world. You could see a world in which Apple tries to sell the “5G iPhone” at a premium to last year’s models. But again, come on, the jury is out on 5G for now.

Your wallet, unfortunately, will also be out for a while longer if you’re interested in either the mini or Pro Max (and yes, it’s annoying that Apple capitalizes the latter but not the former). Pre-orders for those two devices — the two I’m most interested in, naturally — won’t start until two weeks after the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro ship. How quick will they slip into 2021 delivery dates? For the blue models, I suspect very quickly.

Sunset

And that was that. At 1 hour and 8 minutes, another svelte event from Apple. A few things linger in my mind.

First and foremost, I’m still fairly torn between the iPhone 12 mini and the Pro Max.² The camera is undoubtedly going to push me towards the latter, but I do long for a smaller device. Especially since I can carry the iPad mini around with me when we can leave the house again. Still, that camera system…

Second, as should not be a surprise to anyone who has read this far, I’m honestly surprised by how much Apple touted 5G. Most indications are that the networks are not quite ready for prime time and Apple is about to flood the markets with devices that will test them further, faster. All the disclaimers on the slides while talking about 5G didn’t help the cause. I get why they rolled the devices out now, but it just feels like we’re at least a year away from 5G being something Apple would want to tout. A technology they don’t control underperforming for their customers isn’t a look Apple likes…

Third, not hearing about any Macs running Apple Silicon was not a surprise. John Gruber and myself discussed this on his podcast last week. And Mark Gurman reported a few days ago that Apple would save such things for another event in November. More surprising was the lack of Apple TV. Mainly because of the whole home portion of the event, with the HomePod mini. But presumably Apple is saving the new Apple TV — and hopefully the new Apple TV remote — for the November event as well. Opening acts for the bigger show, as it were.

¹ No word on a potential bundle of HomePod minis here. You’d think Apple would want to do that — especially given the fact that they touted the stereo funtionality. Two HomePod minis for, say, $150, would be great. Instead, I imagine we’ll see two HomePod minis for $180. Or, in true Apple fashion, two HomePod minis for $200.

² I’m also slightly confused by the iPhone 12 versus the iPhone 12 Pro. For a mere $120 more (because no one should buy an iPhone with 64 GB of storage), or $8 more a month, you get quite a bit more. Namely, the better camera system. Yes, the Pro is slightly heavier, and has a couple fewer fun color options, but otherwise, I’m not sure who buys the iPhone 12 “regular”. I’m sure a lot will, but I’m not sure a lot should? And that’s going to be the choice for many on Friday. I’ll have to wait until November to make my call.


Twelfth Night was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

No Choice Entertainment


This post is by M.G. Siegler from 500ish - Medium

Finding forcing functions for abundant content

Netflix, Disney+, Apple TV+, ESPN+, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube TV, Hulu, Peacock. Currently, we have some tier of each of these video streaming services. No, I don’t want to add up how much I’m paying for all of them in our post-cable world. Yes, it’s a problem.

Cost aside, the day-to-day problem we now have is a weird one. One of abundance. There’s simply too much content to watch, so how do you choose?

The answer is often to wait for either friend or cultural recommendations (mainly via Twitter or other social channels) to come in. But even these are a challenge to sift through because there’s just so much across so many services. Aside from a very small handful of shows — Ted Lasso being one! — no one seems to be watching anything at the same time. Again, how do you choose?

Recently, during some shelter-in-place trips around the Bay Area, we’ve stayed at a few places without great WiFi. And while that itself has obviously not been great, it has been a nice forcing function in an odd way. It has made it so we had to watch whatever I downloaded to my iPad before we left.

I tend to download things before we go somewhere on a just-in-case basis. And in this case, it was smart. But it was also nice. Because for once, we didn’t have to choose from an effectively infinite supply of content. We could choose between three or four things. It was great.

This sounds ridiculous because it is ridiculous. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less real. In our world of content abundance, these types of forcing functions are refreshing. They lift the weight of choice.

Another example I’ve grown to love recently: the lists of movies leaving Netflix (and other services) at the end of each month (a lot of sites now highlight this). Most of these have to do with license rights and/or windowing restrictions. Still, knowing a movie or show is going away shortly is a great catalyst to get you to watch. Again, it removes some element of choice from the equation. Which, again, is refreshing in a weird way.

All of the above is why I also believe the concept of “new” is so powerful. It’s a curation layer of sorts. (It also helps that something which is ‘new’ is less likely to have the “taint” of being deemed ‘good’ or ‘bad’ already. You can decide for yourself.) It’s also why the concept of releasing shows on a weekly basis, even after Netflix “disrupted” that model, makes some sense again.

That’s it. That’s the post.


No Choice Entertainment was originally published in 500ish on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.